|A 110-storey-high Doha Convention Centre would be Fifa headquarters for the Qatar 2022 World Cup [GALLO/GETTY]|
Soon after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was over, officials of the International Federation of Football Association (Fifa) set off on a tour of the bidding nations for 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
Doha, Qatar’s capital, is the final stop on this tour of nine countries as the Fifa World Cup inspection team consider the possibility of the first ever Middle East World Cup.
Qatar has been trying to convince the decision makers that it can be the perfect host for the 2022 World Cup. And if the decision goes in its favour, it will be a great opportunity to promote the game in the region as Qatar is truly in the Middle, neither in the East nor the West.
Qatar proposes a World Cup that will thus perfectly reflect the Fifa slogan “For the Game; for the World”.
The heat challenge
However, it is the summer heat in Qatar that presents a major challenge to the bidding nation. Temperatures in summer regularly soar above 40 C.
But Qatar has devised a solar-powered system to continuous pump cool air into the venues. As part of their inspection of facilities, the Fifa team attended a football match in a prototype, climate-controlled stadium.
The prototype is said to have a zero carbon footprint and will be the system used at every venue. The cool conditions in the 16,000-seat, outdoor stadium were maintained as air conditioning piped through dozens of vents on the field and in the stands. The temperatures remained at about 26 C (79 F) even as outside they soared above 41 C (106 F).
The organisers feel confident that concerns over Qatar’s hot summers may have been blown over. Nasser al-Khater, a spokesman for Qatar’s bid committee, said: “We can cool a stadium. We’ve proven it and you can feel it. We hope the inspectors say what we’ve been saying has been validated.”
The showcase on Tuesday did not put the heat issue to rest, but for the first time it at least gave credibility to Qatar’s claims that they can keep fans and players cool. They still must show they can do this on a large scale, along with making their transport networks, fan zones and training sites cool.
Inspectors on Tuesday were also shown a solar-powered stadium for five-a-side football which is supposed to be the next generation of the cooling technology. It is billed as carbon neutral in contrast to the current system which taps into the power grid.
Another legacy of a Qatari World Cup would be that most of the stadiums will be dismantled after the tournament and shipped to developing countries to be rebuilt.
Many analysts think that the desert nation faces strong competition from the likes of the US, Australia, South Korea and Japan, which all have hosted either a World Cup or an Olympics but Qatar is one of the richest of the bidders.
It will show inspectors a plan worth $4bn to build nine stadia and renovate another three, all with the new cooling system. It will also share details of $42.9bn investment in infrastructure upgrades, including a new airport, metro system, high-speed rail network, and 40,000 more hotel rooms.
An advantage for football fans will be that they could attend as many as three games in a day as all the stadia will be within an hour of each other.
Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar 2022, said in a statement that Qatar faces challenges with the weather that other bidders do not have but that it has proven that its cooling technology works.
Fifa will announce the winners in Zurich on December 2.