Backing Qatar

14 July 2011

Qatar is the target of a campaign of vilification and rumours, but its plans for the World Cup in 2022 are a gift to football and the world. Doha deserves our support

Delegates at MEED’s Qatar Infrastructure Projects conference in London last week, fell into awed silence as Doha’s investment plans for the years until the start of the Fifa 2022 World Cup were presented at one of the most inspiring events I have ever attended.

The first contracts will soon be awarded in the Qatar Railways Company (QRC) $35bn integrated railway plan, which will deliver one of the most challenging construction programmes in history. Up to 12 tunneling contracts, each worth up to $1.5bn, are to be awarded. They will engage every bit of spare capacity the projects industry has.

The first contracts will soon be awarded in the Qatar Railways Company (QRC) $35bn integrated railway plan

But that is only part of the story. Qatar’s Public Works Authority (Ashghal) will probably spend more than the QRC in the next five years. Its programme comprises an enormous expressway programme; rehabilitating and expanding Qatar’s local and temporary roads and up to 180 public buildings, including ports, schools and hospitals. The first big new Ashghal construction contracts are due to start flowing by the start of next year.

Other government departments are expected to step up their spending on capital projects in line with the Ashghal and QRC programmes. And there are signs the private sector, in turn, will start quickening the pace of investment to capture the opportunities the coming projects boom will create.

According to MEED Projects, a total of $140bn-worth of major projects are under execution or planned in Qatar. This constitutes about 15 per cent of the GCC total. What makes the figure significant is the extent to which Qatar is going to turn to the outside world for help. The priority is to deliver world-class quality. This can only be done if you work with international partners. That is why Qatar will soon become one of the most attractive places on earth for the world construction industry.

According to MEED Projects, a total of $140bn-worth of major projects are under execution or planned in Qatar

Transport infrastructure is the immediate opportunity. But work will begin in due course on the 12 stadiums to be used in the finals themselves. These will be among the most advanced buildings ever erected. The iconic stadium in Lusail, where the opening ceremony and World Cup final is to be played, calls for capacity for 85,000 spectators; space around it for everyone to mingle before and after games; sufficient chilling capacity to reduce the temperature on the pitch to about 27 Celsius when matches are played and a zero carbon footprint. Any construction company seeking to demonstrate first-class competences will want to work on at least one of these extraordinary projects. Those who succeed in Qatar will secure a reputation that will make others green with envy.

Held for the first time in the Middle East, the World Cup in 2022 will be a bold and visionary demonstration that the region should be viewed at last as a zone of peace and international collaboration. But the competition is more than that. It constitutes the most generous gift ever to world football and the event is the single largest opportunity on earth for local, regional and international business.

The whistle has metaphorically been blown this summer to signal the start of the great Qatar World Cup construction boom. No one serious about projects can afford to miss being involved in one of the greatest engineering adventures in history. For some companies, winning work in Doha will be the difference between flourishing in the decades ahead, or going out of business. It is that important.

Those with an eye on the prize rather than cheap newspaper headlines will know that you cannot win unless you are in Qatar bidding for work and helping Doha deliver the greatest sporting event the world has ever seen.

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