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The top stories of 2016 as Qatar reaches half-way mark in preparations for 2022 FIFA World Cup™

With the year 2016 drawing to a close, we take a look back at some of the most successful stories put out by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) this year as Qatar reaches the half-way mark in preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.

Murtaza meets Messi

1. Murtaza meets Messi: The year 2016 ended with a real heart-warming moment which made headlines in media outlets worldwide and captured the imagination of social media users, as 6-year-old Afghan fan Murtaza Ahmadi finally met his hero Lionel Messi in Qatar. The SC invited Murtaza to Doha for the December 13 friendly between F.C. Barcelona and Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, and arranged for the youngster to walk out onto the pitch ahead of the match, holding the hand of the Argentine superstar.

Cooled Helmets

2. Cooled Helmets: As Qatar continues to use innovative solutions across different areas in preparations for 2022, the SC announced in December that together with researchers at Qatar University and Aspire Zone, solar-powered helmets have been developed in Qatar which can help to lower the body temperature of construction workers by up to 10 degrees centigrade. The cooled helmets are planned to be rolled out on SC construction sites from this summer, with a potential legacy use envisioned for countries with hot climates across the world.

3. Lusail Stadium advances: In November, the SC announced the Main Contractor on Lusail Stadium, which will host the Final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™. The announcement saw Qatari contractor HBK Contracting Co. W.L.L. (HBK) and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) appointed as a joint-venture (JV). The news came as Qatar marked six years to go until the opening (21 November) and Final (18 December) of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.

4. 3D printed World Cup stadium models: This summer, innovation 'made in Qatar' made world news, as researchers at Qatar University worked together with the SC to produce 3D printed World Cup stadium models. These were tested in a special wind-tunnel facility to ensure that all the venues being built for 2022 have value engineering in place to make them both cost-effective and help cooling technology built into stadiums achieve the ideal temperature for playing football throughout the year.

Challenge 22 second cycle launched

5. Challenge 22 second cycle launched: The second cycle of the SC's regional innovation award was launched at the end of September, with an expanded reach to 10 countries in the Arab region. Following a road show across participating countries, a record number of 937 submissions have been received. A series of stories were published about Challenge 22 in the build up to the second cycle being launched, with the 360 degree virtual reality proposal of one of last year's winning teams catching the imagination of football fans. Imagine watching a game of football in 360 degree live streaming; a fan experience of the future!

20 million year old rock

6. 20 million year old rock: Some of our stories this year focused on the past, as did one of the most successful stadium updates which was published earlier this year. The Qatar Foundation Stadium works were advancing rapidly, and one of the rock types found under the stadium as machines dug 17 meters deep for the foundation of the stadium was 20 million years old. It was a story which captured the imagination of the global media, and not only history enthusiasts were interested in the rare find.

Xavi in Jordan

7. Xavi in Jordan: Xavi Hernandez was announced as an ambassador of the SC's Generation Amazing programme, and only a few days later he visited a refugee camp in Jordan to play football and inspire the children involved in the programme there. The videos of Xavi preparing to go to Jordan, and then meeting the kids at the SC's pitch in Jordan made news and social media feeds from around the world.

8. Impactt announced as External Monitor: Earlier this year, Impactt were announced as the SC's independent third party External Monitor. The second edition of the SC Workers' Welfare Standards was published on 1 March 2016, and clearly sets out the SC's requirements regarding the recruitment, employment, living and working conditions of everyone engaged on an SC project.

Workers Cup

9. Workers Cup: The 2016 Workers Cup was the most successful edition yet, with 11,050 spectators watching the Final on May 6 this year. One story from the final in particular captured the imagination of regional audiences, as Jerry Ayitey recounted his journey from a 17-year-old forward in the Ghana Premier League, to a heroic performance at the heart of the Workers Cup champions Taleb Group's defence.

Akram Afif moves to Spain

10. Akram Afif moves to Spain: This year saw the talented Qatari forward Akram Afif complete a dream move to Spain's La Liga, as he signed for Villearreal and was subsequently loaned to Sporting Gijon. We talked to the youngster after his dream move, as he said he was 'looking to inspire others to follow in my footsteps and play in Spain.' Other interviews with Qatar players like captain Hassan Al Haydous, Karim Boudiaf and Fahad Al Abdelrahman have shown how a talented generation of youngsters from the Qatar Football Association and Aspire Academy are making a name for themselves and gathering vital experience in Europe ahead of 2022.

Turf and tree nursery stories

11. Turf and tree nursery stories: This year we also featured stories about Qatar's quest to find the perfect pitch for 2022, growing different types of grass at the SC's turf nursery in close collaboration with Aspire. Meanwhile, a special tree farm in the North of Qatar is preparing to grow 16,000 trees to be used around the stadium precincts, making for a green and sustainable tournament in six years' time.

Which has been your favourite SC story of 2016? Get in touch with us on social media on @roadto2022 to let us know.