Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

Spaces of Mega Sporting Events versus Public Spaces

Qatar 2022 World Cup and the City of Doha


In the last decades, many emerging countries have been staging mega sporting events more and more frequently. Among those nations, Qatar stands out for being the first Arab country to host a FIFA World Cup. With the rationale of diversifying its economy and promoting itself as a tourist destination, Doha, its capital city, has recently staged many international events and is literally under construction, undergoing important changes in terms of transportation, infrastructure, and sports facilities.
While hosting cities and organising committees often promote the supposed benefits of a mega event, experience shows an opposite trend: outcomes from staging major events are mostly harmful, and their effects are planned to last only for a short time. When it comes to sporting events sites, stadiums, and their precincts, they usually become under-used and very costly to maintain in a very short time, and their precincts are completely abandoned. What will be the destiny of the 2022 World Cup stadiums and infrastructure? How can this event be leveraged as a momentum of experimentation and sustainable growth of its capital city, Doha? Is it possible to transform the Cup’s stadiums and precincts into liveable, enjoyable and well-integrated public spaces and neighbourhoods?
This work focuses on the city of Doha, which hosted the 2006 Asian Games and will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and aims to identify strategies to plan and maximise the post-event use of event sites and venues, more specifically stadiums, to generate more liveable and sustainable public spaces. The article investigates Doha’s public spaces, and analyses the government’s legacy plans for the 2022 World Cup, with a specific focus on stadiums and their precincts. The research aims to be a warning to future hosting cities and presents a series of suggestions on how to best leverage the stage of mega sporting events to promote healthy and liveable public spaces.

Pages:57 to 80
Section: Space
How to Cite
Azzali, S. (2019) “Spaces of Mega Sporting Events versus Public Spaces”, The Journal of Public Space, 4(2), pp. 57-80. doi:

Author Biography

Dr Simona Azzali is a lecturer and researcher in urban design at James Cook University (JCU) Singapore where she coordinates the Master of Planning and Urban Design and teaches modules on planning and sustainable urbanism. She is a member of JCU's Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab, an interdisciplinary team of geographers, architects, sociologists and planners interested in tropical urbanism, and JCU's Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA).
Prior to commencing her appointment at James Cook University, she worked and researched for various renowned academic institutions as the National University of Singapore, UCL London, Politecnico di Milano, and Qatar University.


Adham, K. (2008). Rediscovering the Island: Doha's Urbanity from Pearls to Spectacle. In Elsheshtawy, Y. (ed.) The Evolving Arab City: Tradition, Modernity and Urban Development. New York: Routledge.

Amara, M. (2005). 2006 Qatar Asian Games: A ‘Modernization’ Project. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, Vol.8(3), pp.493-514.

Azzali S (2019a) Mega sporting events as tools of urban redevelopment: lessons learned from Rio de Janeiro. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE): Urban Design and Planning, 172 (3). pp. 81-89.

Azzali, Simona (2019b) Challenges and key factors in planning legacies of mega sporting events: lessons learned from London, Sochi, and Rio de Janeiro. Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research. (In Press).

Azzali, S. (2017a). The legacies of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: an evaluation of the Adler Olympic Park. Urban Research & Practice, Vol.10(3), pp 329–349.

Azzali, S. (2017b). Mega-events and urban planning: Doha as a case study. Urban Design International. Vol.22(1), pp 3–12.

Azzali, S. (2016). The Aspire Zone in Doha: A post-occupancy evaluation of the long-term legacies of the 2006 Asian Games. Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal, Vol.9(4), pp. 393-405.

Azzali, Simona, and Tomba, Mattia (2018) Urban development and planning practice in Doha. Middle East Journal, 180.

Brown, A., O’Connor, J., & Cohen, S. (2000). Local music policies within a global music industry: Cultural quarters in Manchester and Sheffield, Geoforum, Vol.31 (4), pp.437–451.

Carmona, M. (2010). Contemporary public space, part two: classification, Journal of Urban Design, Vol.15(2), pp.157–173.

Carrière, J. & Demaziere, C. (2002). Urban Planning and Flagship Development Projects: Lessons from Expo 98, Lisbon. Planning Practice and Research. 17,1, 69-79.

Doha News (2011). Qatar’s World Cup will cost $220bn – What does that mean? Retrieved from

Doha News (2016a). FIFA exec warns against building ‘white elephant’ World Cup stadiums. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016b). Stadiums to house Qatar residents in the event of a national emergency. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016c). Experts: Qatar businesses should start preparing for VAT now. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016d). Stadiums to house Qatar residents in the event of a national emergency. Retrieved at

Doha News (2016e). Experts: Qatar businesses should start preparing for VAT now. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016f). Timeline for Gulf Rail project pushed back three years to 2021. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016g). Work on multibillion-riyal Doha sewer project suddenly halted. Retrieved from

Doha News (2016h). Emir: Time to move Qatar’s people off of social welfare and into action. Retrieved from

Doha News. (2016i). Qatar World Cup organizers issue tender for football fan desert camp. Retrieved from

Doha News (2017). Qatar gets until November to improve its human rights record. Retrieved from

Elsheshtawy, Y. (2011). Informal encounters: mapping Abu Dhabi’s urban public spaces, Built Environment, Vol.37(1), pp.92–113.

Essex, S. & Chalkley, B. (1999). Olympic Games: catalyst of urban change. Leisure Studies, Vol.17(3), pp.187–206.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association – FIFA (2010). FIFA World Cup, Qatar BiD evaluation Report. Retrieved from

Gehl, J. (1987). Life between buildings: using public space. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Gulf Times (2016). Qatar’s 2016 budget foresees ‘first deficit’ in 15 years. Retrieved from

Leopkey, B. (2013). The Governance of Olympic Games Legacy, PhD Dissertation, School of Human Kinetics Faculty of Health Sciences University of Ottawa, Canada.

Lusail City (2016) Lusail City. Retrieved from

Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (2015). First Section Population and Social Statistics. Retrieved from

Müller, M. (2014). After Sochi 2014: costs and impacts of Russia’s Olympic Games. Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.55(6), pp.628-655.

Müller, M. (2015). The Mega-Event Syndrome: Why So Much Goes Wrong in Mega-Event Planning and What to Do About It. Journal of the American Planning Association. Vol.(81)1, pp.6-17.

Pitts, A., & Liao, H. (2009). Sustainable Olympic Design and Urban Development, New York: Routledge.

Qatar Statistics Authority – QSA (2015). Population structure. Retrieved from

Qatar General Secretariat of Development Planning – QSDP (2009). Qatar National Vision 2030. Advancing Sustainable Development, Qatar’s Second Human Development Report, Doha: Gulf Publishing and Printing Company.

Qatar Gulf News (2010). The 2022 World Cup. Retrieved from

Qatar Tourism Authority – QTA (2014). Activities, Retrieved from

Salama, A.M., & Azzali, S. (2015). Examining attributes of urban open spaces in Doha. Proceedings of the ICE - Urban Design and Planning, Vol.168(2), pp.75-87.

Smith, A. (2010). The Development of “Sports-City” Zones and Their Potential Value as Tourism Resources for Urban Areas, European Planning Studies, Vol.18(3), pp.385- 410.

Smith, A. (2012). Events and Urban regeneration, New York: Routledge.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – SC, 2016a. Stadiums. Retrieved from

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – SC. (2015). Al Rayyan Stadium deconstruction successfully completed. Retrieved from

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy - SC. (2016a). Stadiums. Retrieved from

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – SC. (2016b). Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. Retrieved from venue-for-2022

The Supreme Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy – SC. (2016 c). About us. Retrieved at

The Telegraph (2011). Qatar World Cup in 2022 could cost £138 billion according to financial analyst. Retrieved from

The National (2015). How GCC states’ break-even oil prices stack up. Retrieved from

The World Bank (2015a). GDP (current US$). Retrieved from

The World Bank (2015b). Gross domestic product 2015. Retrieved from

Time (2013). Why Qatar is Spending $200 Billion On Soccer. Retrieved from
Open Access Journal
ISSN 2206-9658