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974: A stadium in a suitcase

974: A stadium in a suitcase

“The first thing we noticed is that they don’t recycle,” said Talar Sahsuvaroglu. “So make sure you know where you are putting your waste,” she told the contingent of international media gathered in the hospitality area of Stadium 974 here on Tuesday. Cue murmurs of acknowledgement.

Sahsuvaroglu was sharing her experience of 974 hosting games in the Arab Cup, a dress rehearsal for the 2022 World Cup where it will stage seven including one in the round of 16. She holds a PhD from Canada’s McMaster University where she researched on the health impact from exposure to variation in air pollution and has taught at the University of Toronto. Since 2013, Sahsuvaroglu is the senior manager Sustainability and Environment with Qatar’s Supreme Committee that has been tasked with delivering West Asia’s first World Cup.

So it fits that she would be big on reuse and reducing carbon footprint. “We have used nearly 80% of what was demolished to make this stadium. Normally only around 20% is used,” she said. The carpets used have lower-than-usual emission and paints for the walls have lower chemical content, she said. The stadium has received a five-star rating under the Global Sustainability Assessment System, an evaluation grid used by Gulf Organisation for Research and Development, according to an August 31 report by Qatar News Agency.

When Mexico and Poland trot out here on November 22, they will have used locker rooms that look like they have been assembled from a giant Lego set. The Lego concept, said Mohamed Al Atwaan referring to the famous toy brand that uses interlocking plastic bricks, is intrinsic to the idea of building a fully dismountable 40,000-seater with pre-fabricated and modular steel elements. Of the seven built for the World Cup, this was the last to start, he said. “Because it involved a lot of design workshops.”

Players' change room at 974 (Dhiman Sarkar)
Players’ change room at 974 (Dhiman Sarkar)

Atwaan is the director of the stadium built in Doha’s portside area of Ras Bu Abboud where the headquarters of Qatar Petroleum, now Qatar Energy, was located. That, Atwaan said, made 974 a historical location given what Qatar is known for. Demolishing an existing structure fetched 70,000 tonnes of steel that was crushed, tested and used, said Sahsuvaroglu.

With practiced ease of someone who has spoken about the first-ever football World Cup stadium that can be transported, Atwaan outlined the specifics. Briefly they were: 974 shipping containers, made from recycled content, have been used and they are supported by a framework that has 30,000 tonnes of steel almost all of which was locally sourced and has recycled content. The stadium has no mechanical cooling and relies on the “natural circulation of air”.

“Played to full houses”, the temperature was found to be “convenient for players and fans” during the Arab Cup games, he said. It wasn’t now and giant fans were whirring to keep the pitch shipshape. In their brilliantly white Qatari thobes, Atwaan and his colleagues were the epitome of equanimity even as a Ghanaian journalist wondered aloud about the number of water breaks teams would need.

Atwaan didn’t elaborate but said there have been enquires after the Arab Cup. Understandable that because a stadium in a suitcase is an idea whose time has come. Should Qatar want, it can redevelop a prime location where during the World Cup there was a stadium known by what is the country’s international dialling code.

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