Qatar's preparations for FIFA World Cup 2022: Excitement builds in the world's richest country

It's still two years away but Flavio Queriroz's eyes glisten when he thinks of the next Football World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

"It's going to be so fabulous," says the Discover Qatar guide. "Every time a new stadium is launched, we become so excited. You can just feel the atmosphere here, can't you? It's electric!"

He's right, even though the rest of the world is still in two minds about the decision to award the biggest football festival in the world to the small Middle Eastern nation after allegations about corruption in the bidding process. Then there are ongoing controversies over both heat so intense they've had to move the traditional summer tournament to a winter break, and reports of the exploitation, and deaths, of migrant workers on construction projects.

But little can dim the Qataris' enthusiasm. They've just launched their second completed stadium, and every week they seem to be opening another stretch of road, another bridge, another underpass that will make travel between the eventual eight stadiums faster and more efficient, with a new underground train system designed to ferry hundreds of thousands of football fans between games.

"Two of our stadiums are open now and the rest are 70 per cent complete," says Queriroz's  fellow-guide Yegor Zhukovsky. "By the time the World Cup happens, we'll have spent US$300 billion on infrastructure for it. What other country could do so much every day?"

It helps, of course, that you are the richest nation, per capita, on the planet. Qatar once scraped a living fishing and pearl-hunting before oil was discovered in 1940, and it effected a miraculous transformation. Everyone else is coming up roses, too.

Qatar Airways was this year awarded the title of the world's best, the newly-built Hamad International Airport in the capital Doha is on track for a capacity of 50 million passengers by 2022, their team just won the Asian Cup, and the country seems slowly to be winning the battle for the hearts and minds of football fans worldwide.

Doha is today a forest of cranes, not only for the stadia, roads and railway, but also for hotels and resorts that, along with cruise ships, will accommodate the 1.5 million visitors expected over the 28-day competition.

The shortest distance between stadia will be just five kilometres, and the longest 55km – with trains, buses, shuttles, cycleways and pedestrian routes –enabling fans to attend more than one match a day during the group stage.

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The stadia look pretty fabulous – not just state-of-the art but works of art in themselves. The freshly-renovated Khalifa International Stadium was the first to be completed, with the Al Janoub and its retractable roof, air-conditioning system and design inspired by the sails of traditional dhows, the first new-build ready.

Others still under construction were designed by a range of top international architects. The Al Bayt Stadium is set to resemble a traditional Arab tent, the Al Rayyan will have intricate patterns on its facade representing the country's history of trade and its wildlife, and Al Thumana will look like a giant gahfiya, the woven cap worn by men across the Arab world.

Meanwhile, the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be the first demountable and reusable tournament venue in World Cup history, built mostly of shipping containers.

"We want to allow people to see through the misconceptions of our region and understand what people here are like and how passionate they are," says Karim Jabsheh, of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), responsible for the delivery of the infrastructure and host country planning and operations. "We'll be able to introduce them to our culture and traditions of hospitality, while giving them an amazing World Cup."

And when they're not watching football? There are beaches, water sports, the desert, dune-bashing, camel racing, a plethora of new restaurants and some of the world's best museums, including a brand new Olympic and Sports Museum, showing, among other things, just how much Qataris love their football.

TRIP NOTES

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traveller.com.au/qatar

discoverqatar.qa

FLY

Qatar Airways fly from Australia to Doha daily. See qatarairways.com

WORLD CUP

The FIFA World Cup will take place from November 21 to December 18, 2022. See fifa.com/worldcup/qatar2022/ 

Sue Williams visited  Doha as a guest of Discover Qatar.

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