British construction consultants Arup and Mace are the two hot favourites out of six groups battling to oversee the build of the $8.2bn 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar.
Qatari authorities have based the construction of a dozen new stadiums and up to 92 training facilities on the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Partner (ODP) model. Mace, the £850m-turnover company behind London's Shard, was a member of the ODP and is the head of a consortium that is thought to include Middle Eastern companies.
Arup is part of a team led by the American giant CH2M Hill, which was in the ODP team alongside Mace and British construction company Laing O'Rourke. The remaining teams are led by huge companies from the US: KBR, Turner International, WorleyParsons, and Aecom.
The competition, which has been running since April with virtually no publicity, is expected to end in the first week of November when a programme manager will be selected. A bidder said: "I am told that the Qataris would like to make an announcement before the second Eid [there are two Eid festivals in the Muslim calendar], which is 6-9 of November."
Hassan al-Thawadi, general secretary of Qatar's supreme committee running the 2022 World Cup, said earlier this month that he hoped to have a team in place by December. He did not name the bidders, but claimed to be interviewing "the very best global companies for this role".
A source close to the bidding process said he thought that the Mace- and CH2M Hill-led consortia were "head-to-head" as a result of their work on the 2012 Olympics. Although the London budget nearly quadrupled as a result of poor estimates during the bid process, the ODP team has been praised for keeping the games within the revised £9.4bn cost projection.
A programme management or delivery partner role is very different from that of a traditional construction company. Though it might undertake some of the construction itself, the programme manager essentially assigns work to contractors and ensures that costs are kept tight. They are typically rewarded for construction coming in under budget by receiving a percentage of those savings.
Qatar was awarded the World Cup in a contest in Zurich last December. The award surprised the sport as the tournament is always held during European's off-season in June and July.
Temperatures in Qatar can reach 50C in the summer, making conditions virtually unplayable, particularly for the European nations. However, in its bid book last year, Qatar convinced Fifa, the sport's world organising body, that it could find environmentally friendly ways of cooling the stadiums. Qatar has since promised to hand over the cooling technology to countries that would otherwise not be able to host similar competitions due to their climate.
Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the second wife of the Emir of Qatar, successfully presented the state's pitch to host the World Cup. She demanded that Fifa should recognise that the sport was global and it was right for a Middle Eastern country to finally host the competition. In previous World Cups, Qatar had always failed to make it through the qualifying competition to reach the tournament proper.
Qatar hopes to have its first World Cup stadium ready and running by 2015, with the initial major project work under way early next year.