According to reports in Arabian Business, Bahrain is planning to build its biggest integrated sports stadium, set to feature an international standard football pitch, an underground shopping complex and a cinema.
The “visionary” stadium, which is likely to be located in Sakhir, in the Southern Governate of the Kingdom, will accommodate up to 50,000 people and will feature a telescopic roof, as well as halls dedicated to various sports, including basketball, handball, bowling, badminton and table tennis.
The stadium is also likely to include an Olympic-size swimming pool and sports training schools, reported Gulf Daily News.
Ahmed Al Ansari, council chairman of the Southern Municipal Council, confirmed that there is high demand for an integrated sports complex, as he explained:
The existing Bahrain National Stadium and Khalifa Sports City, despite major renovations, still do not match aspirations for Bahrain’s future direction towards having exquisite sporting facilities.
The two sports halls in Umm Al Hassam and Juffair are very small and can’t accommodate a full house, which is the case most of the time, and spectators park in the middle of the road even if it means they get fined, which shows how passionate they are about the game. Other sports have no place and are divided amongst clubs, despite being popular.
The Supreme Council for Youth and Sports secretary-general Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has said that the construction of a new sports stadium reflects the strong commitment on the part of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain to support the sports movement in the country. He added that the project would be a major addition to the standard of sports facilities in Bahrain, which has grown significantly in recent years thanks to royal directives and government support.
The stadium could also help Bahrain enter the race to host the Asian Cup championships, according to Al Ansari, who said the stadium could turn into a focal tourist point.
Bahrain’s sporting credentials
An island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, Bahrain’s 30,000-seat National Stadium was built in 1982, with its main use being for soccer games for tenant team, Riffa SC. It was renovated in 2012, in readiness for hosting the 2013 Gulf of Nations tournament.
The Kingdom’s Formula One race-track, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), hosted the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on 4 April 2004, making it the first Arab country to do so. This was followed by the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix and the 2006 Grand Prix for which it was the season opener venue. The race has been hosted at the BIC every year since, apart from 2011, when it was cancelled due to ongoing anti-government protests.
Association football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the country, with Bahrain’s national squad having competed multiple times at the Asian Cup, Arab Nations Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifiers (though the team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup Finals).
Bahrain has its own top-tier domestic professional football league, the Bahraini Premier League, basketball, rugby and horse racing are also widely popular in the country.
Image: The 30,000-seat Bahrain National Stadium is located in East Riffa and is used mostly for football matches. It was built in 1982 and renovated in 2012 ready to host the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations tournament. Courtesy: www.wikipedia.org