Black and white image of a stadium packed with spectators.
All stories

Gallery Highlight: Tracing the History of a Legendary Stadium

13 February 2023

By 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum Curatorial Team

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum (QOSM)’s Qatar Sports Culture gallery showcases memorabilia celebrating the iconic Khalifa International Stadium.

Share with a friend

The roar of thousands of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ fans still echoes throughout the country’s streets and stadiums, months after the competition has ended. However, the local love of football, sports and athletics is not a recent phenomenon, but a recurring theme throughout the country’s history.

The 1960s were the start of a burgeoning professionalfootball legacy, with Doha Stadium – Qatar’s first playing grounds – hosting local competitions and international friendlies, including a tussle between Qatar’s Al Ahli and Brazil’s Santos, whose roster included the late Pelé, in ‘73. The stadium was also home to sport royalty, presenting an exhibition boxing match with the greatest of all time in one corner: Muhammad Ali.

But the appetite for sport grew beyond football and the occasional exhibitionist bout, to such a level that Doha Stadium could no longer accommodate the sheer numbers of events or spectators.

And so, in 1976, a new state-of-the-art national stadium was opened as the home of football and athletics. Khalifa Olympic Stadium – later known as Khalifa International Stadium and by Doha-siders simply as Khalifa Stadium – was named in honour of Qatar’s Emir at the time, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani (1932 – 2016).

The stadium’s inaugural event, commemorated by this plaque on display at QOSM, was the 1976 Arabian Gulf Cup, which featured seven teams and 22 matches and was marked by Iraq’s participation for the first time.

Photo of a commemorative plaque with the flag and map of Qatar.

Plaque commemorating the 4th Arabian Gulf Cup at the newly built Khalifa Olympic Stadium, March – 11 April 1976. Photo: Courtesy of 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum ©2022

The Cup returned to Khalifa Stadium in 1992, when the Qatar national team won the tournament for the first time.

In 2005, the stadium saw major renovations, both in light of Qatar hosting the 2006 Asian Games and as part of the elaborate plans for Doha Sports City, more commonly known as Aspire Zone. Amongst multiple aesthetic and logistical upgrades, Khalifa Stadium’s capacity was doubled to be able to host as many as 40,000 spectators.

Spectator capacity was increased once again amidst further developments spurred on by Qatar winning the 2022 World Cup bid, with the renovated stadium reopening its doors in 2017, in time to host the World Athletics Championships in 2019.

In 2022, Khalifa Stadium was one of the eight stadiums that held FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ matches. The stadium hosted eight matches, the last one being the third-place face-off between Morocco and Croatia.

While the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ anthems continue to play across local and international radio stations, one thing is for certain: the tournament has cemented Qatar’s position on the global sporting stage. The popularity of sport in Qatar is an ever-growing theme that will continue to bloom over years to come.

Plan your visit today to see the complete Qatar Sports Culture collection at QOSM.