Empty streets, cranes: The city built for Qatar’s World Cup
Lusail City seems strangely silent less than a month before it is scheduled to host the World Cup final. The modern neighborhood, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital Doha, was planned to house World Cup supporters and hundreds of thousands of people of the host country Qatar. It is filled with wide vacant streets, empty lobbies, and construction cranes.
However, while the world cup of soccer is currently in progress, the futuristic city’s emptiness raises concerns about how much use the infrastructure that Qatar developed for the event will receive once more than a million soccer enthusiasts have left the small Gulf Arab country. A San Francisco businessman named Elias Garcia, 50, traveled to Lusail City from Doha with a buddy on a day when there was no soccer match taking place in the city’s golden, bowl-shaped stadium.
Garcia said, gazing up at a massive crescent-shaped tower behind him that was created to resemble the curved swords on Qatar’s national emblem: “We came to check it out but there’s not much here.” A modest fence across the street that was decorated with images of the desert disguised a construction site. Garcia said that everything appeared to be in the construction phase. “It’s basically vacant lots with tiny barriers they built to give the impression that it’s operational.
“Lusail City’s sparkling skyline and marina are easy to miss when traveling north from Doha. From the desert emerge pastel-colored buildings that resemble boxes stacked on top of one another. Wide avenues give place to groups of neoclassical apartment complexes, glass domes, and zigzagging structures. It is unknown if anyone resides there. The majority are promoted as being high-end hotels, residences, or business offices.
Many buildings are surrounded by cranes. Construction of Lusail City was accelerated after Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup five years later, despite plans for it dating back to 2005.
The city was planned to be compact and pedestrian-friendly and is connected by Doha’s new metro and a light rail, which is supported by Qatar’s $450 billion sovereign wealth fund. A self-contained “extension of Doha,” according to Fahad Al Jahamri, project manager at Qatari Diar, the real estate firm that developed the city and is funded by Qatar’s Investment Authority.
Officials have also stated that the city is a component of larger plans that Qatar, which is rich in natural gas, wants to develop its knowledge economy. This is a recognition of the kind of long-term white-collar professionals that the nation aims to draw to the city. But it may be difficult to meet its target of housing 400,000 people in Lusail City in a nation where just 300,000 people are citizens and the majority of the 2.9 million residents live in squalid migrant camps rather than opulent buildings.
Lusail City is noticeably quieter than Doha even during the World Cup, which has itself seen staggering levels of construction over the past ten years in anticipation of the event. Many of the boutiques of the Place Vendome, a posh mall named after the enormous Parisian plaza, are still closed.
On a recent day, travelers took shots of the skyline of Lusail City from the mall while cashiers engaged in conversation. The Ministry of Culture and other government offices are located in a building downtown. A security officer reported that by 11 a.m., practically everyone had left.
If there isn’t a game that day, there are usually five to ten other passengers on the metro, according to Garcia. A large group of World Cup supporters and residents relaxed at a posh beach club on the artificial Al Maha Island, smoking shisha and swimming in the pool.
Later that evening, Timothe Burt-Riley oversaw personnel at an opening of an art gallery. The director of the French gallery claimed that Lusail City, or at the very least Al Maha Island with its theme park, upscale shops, restaurants, and lounges, would be a gathering place for locals.
Burt-Riley remarked, “This is a wholly man-made island. It’s fairly amazing what they can do.
Although he acknowledged that “it might take time,” he claimed that Qatar might find a way to utilize the infrastructure it built for the World Cup, including the seven brand-new soccer stadiums.