Doha’s spiralling 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum opens to the public

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Doha’s spiralling 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum opens to the public

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum at Khalifa International Stadium has finally opened its doors to the public during what has been a busy week for Qatar Museums (QM), the governmental entity overseeing the tiny Arab country’s museums, galleries, archaeological projects, and cultural tourism sites.

Earlier this week, QM also announced that a trio of firms led by Pritzker Prize-winning architects—Rem Koolhaas, Jacques Herzog, and Alejandro Aravena—will design three new museums set to open in the coming years: an automotive museum from OMA, a Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum focused on Orientalist art, and a campus dedicated to contemporary art designed by ELEMENTAL in what is the first museum commission for the Chilean firm led by Aravena.

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum is the newest addition to QM’s fast-growing network of cultural destinations in and around the Qatari capital city of Doha. Next up: a UNStudio-designed children’s museum currently under development.

a museum exhibit featuring olympic torches in cylindrical displays
Torches on display in the Olympic gallery. (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

Located in Doha’s sprawling Aspire Zone sports complex (also known as Doha Sports City), the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, designed by Barcelona-based architect Joan Sibina, encompasses two buildings: a volume that wraps snugly around the curved side of the iconic 46-year-old Khalifa International Stadium and, extending from that, a cylindrical, glass-skinned structure inspired by the five interlaced rings emblematic of the Olympic Games. Although significantly renovated over the decades, the stadium is by far the oldest of the eight Qatari venues that will jointly host 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar matches.

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum’s March 30 opening event was unsurprisingly a splashy one attended by sports royalty, namely David Beckham, along with actual Qatari royalty. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, and FIFA honcho Gianni Infantino were also in attendance at the museum inauguration, which was held under the patronage of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, delivered remarks as did Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani, who serves as president of the new museum.

a photo exhibition next to a museum escalator
Hey’Ya Arab Women In Sports features photographs by Brigitte Lacombe (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

As for Beckham, in addition to the museum opening, the retired superstar footballer also appeared at a Doha Forum panel held earlier this week in which the three new QM museums were announced.

“This is the very first museum in the Middle East dedicated to achievement in sports, to exploring the profound role of sports in society and in our personal lives, and is the only Arab institution to join the international Olympic Museums Network,” said Sheikha Al Mayassa in a statement. “In doing so, we demonstrate Qatar’s commitment to the ideals of the modern Olympic Movement, which recognizes the potential for athletic competition to lift the spirit, foster cooperation among people, and encourage a healthy and productive way of life.”

In addition to the superlatives mentioned above by Sheikha Al Mayassa, the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, at nearly 205,000 square feet, is also being billed as the largest museum of its kind.

a circular building pictured at night with a facade featuing glowing, Olympic-referencing rings
The museum’s facade evokes the signature rings of the Olympic Games. (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

Described in a QM press release as “one of the world’s most innovative and technologically advanced museums dedicated to sports, offering an unforgettable and inspiring interactive journey through the history and legacy of sports around the globe and the Olympic Games,” the stadium-hugging museum features seven distinct galleries:

World of Emotion, a lobby area exhibition space that “provides an overview of the Museum’s themes and the central role of sports in Qatar;” the time-hopping Global History of Sport gallery where more than 100 objects and reproductions spanning the 8th century BCE through the early 20th century are on display; an Olympics-themed gallery featuring, among other objects, a display of torches from every Winter and Summer Games from 1936 onwards; The Hall of Athletes, a gallery spanning three floors where visitors can learn familiarize themselves with 90 top international athletes; the Qatar—Hosting Nation gallery where guests can revisit mega sporting events held in Qatar over the years; a gallery that “presents the inspiring story of the development of sports in Qatar, from traditional games through to the arrival of international sport and the development of international competitions” while showcasing “long-established sporting activities” in the country like pearl diving, camel racing, and falconry, and, finally, is the Activation Zone, an interactive, physical activity-promoting space meant to “promote sports across Qatar, inspire future talent, and encourage the adoption of healthy and active lifestyles for all.”

a seating area within a museum space with a colorful suspended installation
The museum’s Activation Zone. (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum also includes a casual third-floor takeaway cafe, the more upscale Naua restaurant, and a gift shop.

Other major museums that have debuted in Qatar since QM was first established include the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Jean-François Bodin’s Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel. QM, as mentioned, also oversees a number of galleries, exhibition spaces, and heritage sites along with a range of cultural programming.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar kicks off on November 21.