Bringing the world to the neighbourhood!
The World Athletics Village, a first-of-its-kind fan zone outside the Khalifa Stadium, is pulling in fans by the hundreds.
The 17th IAAF World Championships in Doha boasts of competitors from almost 200 nations.
Add to that hundreds of international fans, who have travelled to the city to see their favourite athletes in action, and the event has turned into a perfect melting pot of cultures.
Anticipating the interest, local organisers opened the World Athletics Village – a first-of-its-kind fan zone in Qatar – in the stadium premises, and it has proved to be a big draw. Various cultural programmes, including songs and dances, are staged every day with participation from the expatriate communities in Qatar.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of Pakistani ghazal singers Nazakat Ali and Arif Mohammed, members of Doha-based Punjab Music Group, to entertain the fans with beautiful Urdu songs. A dance show from Sri Lankan expatriates thereafter had the viewers in thrall.
“It is really wonderful, we’re really enjoying it,” said Ahmed Mohammed Al Momain, a Qatar fan who had come to the Khalifa Stadium along with friends Ahmad Nabil Al Shaiba and Jassim Hussein Al Haddad to support hammer thrower Ashraf Amjad El Saif.
“We actually came to support Ashraf. When we heard about the Village, we wanted to see it. Interacting with fans from around the world was a great experience. We made some new Dutch friends who had travelled to Doha to watch the competition,” the 19-year-old Al Momain said.
For Swede Maria Samuelsson, visiting Qatar has been a matter of great personal importance, as her son Fredrik is competing in the decathlon. Maria and her cousin Lena Hawksson said they loved the fan zone atmosphere.
“I came to Qatar to see my son compete. I’ve been to the stadium every day since the start and never once missed a chance to visit the fan zone. The organisers deserve a pat on the back for bringing together such a wide variety of activities, including food from different countries,” she said.
The Village is divided into six areas to represent Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Oceania and Asia, with each area decorated to reflect the cultures of the region. Various games have also been organised for children and adults.
Embassies of different countries have put up kiosks to present glimpses of their culture to the public. Alexander Samson Gomez, a fast-talking Mexican teenager with a giant sombrero on his head, said he was thoroughly enjoying the experience.
“I’m a student in Doha. When the Mexican embassy in Qatar called for entries to run the kiosk at the Village, I jumped at the opportunity. Though the weather is a little humid at times, I’ve enjoyed introducing my culture to different people,” he said.
Some kiosks also make use of cutting-edge technology to make the fan experience memorable. The 360-Degree booth, which allows fans to take 360-degree pictures with the Khalifa Stadium as its backdrop, is the most impressive.
“All you need to do is get into the booth and strike a pose, and 24 cameras will capture you from all angles. The picture will then immediately be processed and sent to your email. Fans have been flocking to the booth, with over 500 photographs being taken each day,” Jordanian Taha Mustafa, who runs the kiosk, said.
The World Athletics Village will run on every competition day, from 5.00 pm onwards. Fans will need competition tickets to enter the Village area.