At QITCOM 2019 conference: Al Suwaidi speaking on the second day of the conference
30 October 2019 - Doha, Qatar:
Aspire Zone Foundation has participated in the fifth edition of Qatar Information Technology Conference and Exhibition (QITCOM) held from October 29 to November 1, 2019 and organised by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation under the patronage of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The theme of the conference this year is 'Safe Smart Cities'. QITCOM is the largest ICT event in Qatar and aims to enhance collaboration towards the development of smart cities.
Aspire Zone's story as a "smart sports city" is a typical example of urban transformation
As part of the second day of the conference, a special session held on “THINKING BIG: Large-scale urban development and mega events”. Mr. Mohammed Khalifa Al Suwaidi, CEO of Aspire Zone Foundation, was one of the main speakers in the session seeing it an opportunity to exchange ideas on this important subject which is closely related to Doha in general and to Aspire Zone in specific.
He started saying: “When I received the invitation to join you today in this panel, I was so excited as I find the story of Aspire Zone as a “smart sports city” is a typical live example of the topic of this session demonstrating how mega events act as catalysts for urban development.”
He elaborated on the fact that not all the examples are successful ones in terms of mega-events contributing to the urban development of the host country. At the end, mega-events are considered more of stress on the cities testing their limits to meet the huge demand during those events – what we call the “winners-tears”.
Very few ones could make use of the mega events to develop their cities and sustain the legacy of them. Since Diego is here, Barcelona was one of those few examples hosting the 1992 Olympics.
Doha, is another typical example of the successful stories utilising mega events for urban development. It even contributed to the city branding as “Home to Sports”. This refers in specific to 2006 Asian Games and the area of Aspire Zone.
When AZF hosted the Asian Games in 2006, actually the same doubts were faced. People in Qatar were questioning the country’s ability to benefit from the legacy of that mega event after it is over. Yet, AZF significantly managed and sustained the legacy in an unprecedented way.
Now, the footfall in this area is the highest in the country comparing to other areas in Doha. Public come and enjoy the facilities that are continuously open for them.
Al-Suwaidi shared some thoughts essentially around three main ideas: SMART VISION, SMART TRANSFORMATION and SMART LEGACY MANAGEMENT.
Essentially, it all started with a “smart” vision. Qatar’s leadership was truly visionary when decided to establish an all-inclusive sports city seeing in sports an indispensable pillar for the nation’s development and advancement.
This what makes Aspire unique; the unparalleled triplet of sports development, education, sports medicine and facilities management represented in three member organisations: Aspire Academy, Aspetar and Aspire Logistics, together under one umbrella which is Aspire Zone Foundation. Such integration exists nowhere else in the world.
Transformation was also “smart” creating a connected eco-system within the sports city. Aspire Zone is in fact a small city in the city. We have a school, a hospital, a mall, an hotel, a park, a stadium all in a walking distance!
Enormous results have been seen in Aspire Zone area, especially in the improvement of the physical infrastructure, the quantity and quality of public spaces and the boom of real estate development.
After building the facilities and developing the urban area, AZF started engaging people using technology. “step into health” is a unique case where AZF was among the first sports organisations engaging community to change their lifestyle into more active and healthier one using technology. In 2012, the mobiles did not have a gyroscope sensor at that time. So, AZF used the pedometers to engage people and it witnessed a huge success. In the second technology wave, AZF used the mobile apps. The program reached 100+ thousand members of this active engaging community.
In terms of engagement too, AZF expands its smart technology used for professional athletes to the public to benefit from. Examples are many ranging from Aspetar modern sports medicine and science technology made available to the benefit of the people, to the monitoring technology used in the Academy being used in Samla race for instance. Most recent example is the Football Performance Centre, which includes the latest technology in football training and performance sciences, and is being utilised by Qatar National Football Team of all age groups.
AZF continues enhancing the people’s experience as AZF is planning for a coming wave of using smart technology to engage people.
The last point was about the “smart” legacy management that Aspire has been and still carrying on. AZF proved to be a live example of how to turn temporary events into a sustainable legacy. That has been proved on multiple levels: human (keeping the know-how and expertise with AZF staff), social (maintaining the momentum for healthy active lifestyle), economic (sustaining assets and turning the Torch into a 5-star hotel) and environmental (reuse assets and recycle materials from the 2006 Asian games till now).
When it comes to mega events, SMARTNESS is also about how to scale up our capacity effectively during the preparation and execution of the event, then size-down after the event to the normal capacity without considerable losses in the resources or failure to benefit from the legacy inherited.
For the future, Aspire Zone Foundation is also a key player in the country’s preparation for the 2022 FIFA World CupTM, which is another “paragon” of the role of mega-events in urban development even in a larger scale.
A great example is Al-Bayt Stadium that is being designed and constructed by AZF. AZF tried to create another Aspire Zone around the stadium there by the parks, lakes, restaurants, walking and jogging trails, outdoor gym machines all in the stadium’s surrounding to serve the local community of Al-Khor city there.
On the country level, one cannot mistake the radical transformation that is smartly taking place all over Qatar. A long list of mega projects that are face-lifting the whole country: new urban areas, high ways, rails, new airport with expanded capacity, port, etc.
The audience posed a number of questions to the stage about various aspects of urban development and demographic change in the context of major events, and the risks associated with these events. This is the second time Aspire Zone Foundation has participated in the conference following its participation in the 2017 edition.