Sizzling summer heat could scorch Qatar’s bid

Blistering summer temperatures that can soar to above 50 degrees Celsius may in the end be what prevents Qatar from winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 6:51 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:33 AM

In its technical reports published earlier this month, FIFA said that despite proposals for cooling the stadiums and training grounds, Qatar’s bid could pose a health risk because of the midsummer heat.

“The fact that the competition is planned in June/July, the two hottest months of the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken,” the report said.

Qatari bid organisers say they have already tackled the issue by constructing climate-controlled, zero-carbon-emitting stadiums. The country has harnessed solar-powered technology to cool stadiums to about 27 Celsius.

FIFA has praised Qatar’s green credentials and “novel approach,” but said holding the World Cup in such a small country could also pose a problem, especially as 10 of the 12 stadiums are located within a 25 to 30-kilometre radius.

If it wins FIFA’s approval, Qatar would become the smallest host nation to stage the finals since Uruguay hosted the first World Cup in 1930.

Doubts remain over whether Qatar — a tiny country still in the process of being built — can handle an influx of some 400,000 fans, many on a tight budget.

The country, which currently has about 50,000 hotel rooms, would need 60,000 to meet FIFA requirements. Bid leaders have promised 95,000 rooms would be available by 2022.

Qatar has launched a huge spending programme in recent years to build infrastructure needed to accommodate its rapidly expanding population, now estimated at 1.7 million. Much of the capital city Doha resembles a construction site.

Plans are in place to complete a metro system connecting every stadium by 2017, with stadiums no more than one hour apart from each other, bid leaders say.


Still, doubts remain.

“It’s a massive leap of faith for FIFA to believe that in 12 years they will have the facilities built to the point where the punters are going to have a wonderful time in 50-degree heat,” said one resident of Doha employed in the sports industry.

If Qatar wins the bid, it would be the first major global sporting event staged in the Middle East and a boon for the entire region.

The bid’s organisers have co-opted a number of high-profile soccer personalities to endorse their campaign, including France great Zinedine Zidane, former Dutch international Ronald de Boer and Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.

De Boer, who finished his playing career in Qatar and has lived there for the last eight years, told Reuters: “It is a remarkable country, and the World Cup would be exceptional and unlike any ever before. It is only a question of time for it to come to a country like Qatar and I think the time has come.”

Though the Gulf Arab state is eager to display a liberal and welcoming image to inspectors and media, its $4-billion bid for the tournament has been dismissed by many as unrealistic given its conservative social mores and lack of soccer culture.

The sale of alcohol, and possibly rowdy behaviour of World Cup fans from around the world, present significant challenges in an Islamic country where public drunkenness is prohibited.

On the positive side, all of Qatar’s stadiums would be partly dismantled after the finals, with the extra seating shipped to developing nations who could reconstruct them as smaller stadiums for their own use, a plus for developing football globally, bid organisers say.

Commercially, an event staged in Qatar is likely to do well because of the time zone — three hours ahead of GMT — with the largest spectator audiences coming from Europe, South America and Asia.

For the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, money is no object. The country’s economy, forecast to grow by 15.5 percent this year, is expected to soar a staggering 21 percent in 2011, allowing Qatar to pour as much cash as necessary into preparations for 2022.

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