With less than a week to go before the start of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships in Doha, organizers have been working to build anticipation for the event, most recently by setting up hot air balloons on the Corniche.
According to the Gulf Times, free rides will be offered on the balloons starting today from the Museum of Islamic Art. Update: the balloons are just to count down to the tournament, no rides will be given, organizers told Doha News.
Meanwhile, roads around the three handball event venues have been upgraded, temporary and permanent parking lots for thousands of cars built, paths laid, lighting and signage put in place and new traffic signals installed in a bid to reduce congestion, the public works authority Ashghal said.
Senior officials from the Qatar organizing committee have also visited a number of key facilities to test their readiness ahead of the event, which starts on Jan. 15 and runs until Feb. 1.
To ensure smooth traffic flow between the venues, Ashghal has been improving the infrastructure surrounding the arenas.
Work around Al Sadd stadium has included paving the arena entrances, exits and surrounding streets, adding lighting and new signage and building a temporary car park for 2,400 vehicles.
Meanwhile, some 6.5km of new roads have been built or existing routes upgraded around Lusail, creating two lanes in each direction, while permanent parking lots for up to 4,500 cars have been built on the north and west sides of the venue, the public works authority said in a statement.
The roads around the arena have also been connected with the Al Khor Coastal Road to increase traffic flow and safety and provide a way to and from the Multipurpose Hall and the Sports Complex through the recently-opened temporary truck route.
No Bahrain or UAE
Two dozen teams will compete in the championships, which are taking place for the first time in the Gulf and only the second time in the Middle East, and are seen by many as a test event for Qatar’s preparedness in hosting an international sports tournament.
However, the championships will go ahead without the participation of neighbors Bahrain and the UAE, who were respectively runners-up and finalists of the 2014 Asian Championships.
In early November, the two Gulf states withdrew their participation in the event, and while they never gave an official reason for pulling out, many speculated it was a boycott related to diplomatic disputes after UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia recalled their ambassadors from Doha in March last year.
After the states finally reached an agreement to end the eight-month-long dispute, Bahrain and the UAE applied to the International Handball Federation to cancel their withdrawal from the championships.
But in a meeting in Germany at the end of November, the IHF Council dismissed the appeal and ruled that the two Gulf states could not compete. The body also fined them CHF100,000 (QR359,648) for pulling out after the official draw.
To replace them, Saudi Arabia and Iceland were given wild-card entries to take part in the competition
Qatar will play in Group A, against alongside defending world champions Spain, as well as Slovenia, Belarus, Brazil and Chile. Other Arab countries with teams participating include Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, in addition to Saudi.
Do you plan to attend? Thoughts?