Qatar's first World Cup stadium opens to public
The construction of the first of eight World Cup venues in Qatar is now complete and will host its debut football match this weekend, organisers have announced.
The Khalifa International Stadium will open to the public for the Emir Cup final on Friday 19 May.
"We are happy that the Khalifa International Stadium will again host football matches in Qatar," said Qatar Football Association President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani.
"The stadium has been witness to the most prominent sporting achievements of Qatar and is a venue that is closest to Qatari hearts."
The 40,000-seater stadium, which has been under renovations for the past three years, first opened in 1976.
In 2006, it was refurbished to host the Asian Games.
It has now been remodelled once more for the 2022 World Cup, with redesigned arches and new canopies to provide shade for spectators, in addition to a cooling system for players and fans.
Qatar has been investing heavily in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, splurging almost $500 million a week on major infrastructure projects for football's biggest tournament.
"This will carry on for the next three to four years to achieve our goal and objective of really getting the country ready for 2022," finance minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi said in February.
More than $200 billion (187bn euros) will be spent in total by the gas-rich Emirate in preparation for 2022.
Emadi said this figure covered not only stadia but also huge and costly projects such as roads, a new airport and hospitals.
The momentous construction effort has been criticised by human rights groups who say that workers on the projects are subject to inhumane conditions in the labour camps in which they are forced to stay.
Last year, Qatar ran an estimated budget deficit of more than $12 billion, its first in 15 years.
The state budget for 2017 was approved with a deficit of $7.7 billion.
Qatar, which has the world's third-largest natural gas reserves and produces up to 800,000 barrels of oil a day, has been forced to tighten its belt following a 2014 collapse in the price of crude.
The market has now partially recovered and Emadi said that Qatar is "very comfortable" with current oil prices.