The Qatar World Cup begins this weekend, and the list of objections to it is at this point long and well rehearsed, from corruption to greenwash, to human rights abuses and oppressive anti-LGBTQ laws, to the absurdity of holding sporting events in the desert in the first place. But this I do like: the first temporary stadium in the history of the competition.
Stadium 974 is made out of shipping containers. 974 of them, to be precise – which also happens to be the international dialling code for Qatar. It’s an appropriate material for a waterfront stadium located near the port, and containers lend themselves to modular construction. The whole stadium was manufactured off-site and then assembled in position, with modular bleacher units and containers erm… containing things such as toilets or catering outlets.
With this modular design, the whole stadium can be taken apart afterwards. It could in theory be rebuilt exactly the same in the next place to host a World Cup, helping to reduce costs and material footprints. Or it can be reconfigured into a number of smaller venues elsewhere, which is more likely. It is essentially a transportable and reusable stadium, something that has not been attempted before.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen modular construction on this scale before, and it’s ambitious and pioneering and won an award from the Institution of Structural Engineers. Of course, the real test of it will be whether or not anyone takes them up on the offer of reusing it, or whether it falls into disrepair after the games like so many other big event projects that fail to deliver a long term legacy. And before any of that, it has to prove itself as a sports venue with 40,000 fans in it over the coming weeks.
Anyway, I’ll be looking out for it. In case you’re wondering, the first game there is Mexico v Poland on Tuesday.