Inside Qatar’s unfinished “City of the Future,” Lusail, the host nation for the 2022 World Cup Final
Lusail, Qatar – You thought the 2022 Qatar World Cup Final was in Doha, right? Doha, the capital of the small Gulf state, was the central focus of this tournament, but it will not host the final between France and Argentina on Sunday. This honor was awarded to Lusail, the second largest city in Qatar, which is located 14 miles north of Doha. It is unlike any city that has ever hosted, or is likely to host, a World Cup final.
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Qatar has called Lusail the “City of the Future,” but as you walk down Lusail Street, the official song of the 2010 World Cup is broadcast from the loudspeakers, which are obviously everywhere, but impossible to see. Shakira sings “Waka Waka – This Time for Africa”. Ten minutes later, you hear it again. Then again.
By the time you get to the end of the street, about a 25-minute walk from one end to the other, standing under a metal shark statue hanging from two skyscrapers—yeah, that’s right, a shark—the “earworm waka waka” is now inescapable. .
There are dancing fountains shooting from the ground, designed for the laughter of young children to run. But there are no children, just a group of fans from different countries, walking around to see the desert city for themselves.
Even though the sun is pouring down, the heat is oddly manageable due to the constant breeze. At first there is an unsettling shiver, given the time and place, but closer inspection reveals air pumping from holes in the sidewalk along the street.
It looks like a dystopian scene out of a Christopher Nolan movie – Interstellar meets Tenet – but it’s actually 2pm on the main street Saturday afternoon in the city that will host the World Cup Final at the iconic Lusail Stadium.
Qatar is considering bidding to host the 2036 Olympic Games and has proposed air-conditioned streets to help spectators and marathon runners deal with the summer heat. It seemed silly at first, but the technology is in Lucille. The future is happening now.
It is not uncommon for the final to be played away from the capital. Pasadena (1994), Yokohama (2002) and Rio de Janeiro (2014) have hosted the biggest soccer match and the 2026 final in the US is expected to be played in Dallas, Los Angeles or New Jersey instead of Washington DC.
Yet all of these cities are, well, cities. They live, breathe, and work in population areas, with communities, infrastructure, and populations often in the millions. Lucille can claim to have none of these things. But it is the city of the future, so it is expected that all of the above will develop in time.
Right now, there is no doubt that it is the weirdest and strangest city ever to host a World Cup final. But when you consider that Qatar itself has proven itself to be an extraordinary host country, perhaps Lusail is a fitting place for it all to end.
The World Cup where it seemed so little, has come to a conclusion in a city that doesn’t really exist.
ESPN attempted to contact the central government team responsible for the Lusail project for more information about the city, but did not receive a response. Questions such as how many people actually live there, when it will be finished and the story behind the shark statue remain unanswered, but throughout the World Cup every match was broadcast through a televised advertisement – before, at half time, and after the final whistle – a way of life advertisement. You dream of a “city of the future”. It features a young boy talking about scoring the perfect goal in the city” by Design [TikTok video star] Javi, and Neymar over there,” – Neymar turns around and says, “No problem,” before scoring at an empty goal.
The fact is that Lucille was not expected to be completed in time for the World Cup. The stadium, which opened in September, has always been a priority for the hosts. The stunning architecture – designed by Populous, the architects who also created London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – ensures that it will be a worthy venue for the World Cup Final.
Lusail City is eventually expected to have a population of 250,000 – professionals who live in Lusail Towers, the four skyscrapers at the end of Lusail Street, with the kind of disposable income that will allow them to cover their rent and shop at the nearby Vendome Mall, which can best be described as An awkward mixture of the neoclassical Parisian square from which it gets its name, and the canals of Venice – not from the real thing in Venice but from a Las Vegas hotel.
The towers are completed in terms of construction, but dust on the glass panels indicates that they are not ready for habitation. On either side of the street are vast tracts of land, much of which was used as parking lots during the World Cup, and apartment buildings that continue to be built.
Much of it looks like a ghost town – even the streets are numbered rather than named – but the hope in Qatar at least is that it will all eventually be conquered. The goal is the Lusail project (you can call it ambitious, but Qatar has the funds to be ambitious in everything it does) to eventually deliver a city to ensure its stadium and Formula 1 track are surrounded by the daily hustle and bustle. life instead of appearing, as it does now, as huge projects stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Some will rightly point out that the avenue gets busier at night, when fans are in the area for matches at the stadium. There are enough food outlets on Mile Street for the 60,000 visitors, but they are so deserted during the day that the question must be asked – who will fill the street when all the fans are gone?
For whom will they cool the streets, and will table staff stay outside restaurants, waiting for customers to pass by like tumbleweed?
If you create it, they will come. Probably. Perhaps Lionel Messi or Kylian Mbappe will actually be dancing in the streets of Lusail on Sunday night to the backdrop of “Waka Waka”.
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