From one World Cup we jump to another. Not long after South Africa 2010 ended do we now wait to see who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Brazil has taken the 2014 extravaganza but it’s anybody’s guess who will be the two lucky ones thereafter when the announcements are made on Dec. 2.
The nine candidates competing for football’s grandest showcase are currently being scrutinized by a FIFA inspection team which has so far visited Japan, South Korea, Australia, joint bidders Belgium/Holland, Russia and just this week England. Next week the sleuths with the magnifying glasses move on to another joint bid candidate, Spain/Portugal, with the US and Qatar still to come.
The Qatari bid is the most intriguing, not least because it might become the first Arab nation to host the World Cup. From our Middle East perspective, Qatar is the candidate we should be rooting for.
Qatar seeks the 2022 showpiece event and for a country with a population of less than one million and currently placed 95th in the FIFA world rankings, landing a World Cup would be a coup which might just happen.There is no doubt oil-rich Qatar has the money to fulfill the stringent requirements of the world’s most popular sporting event. Twelve stadiums with minimum capacities of between 40,000 for group matches and 80,000 for the opening match and final are required to host the 32 teams.
The very highest standards of TV broadcasting, information and telecommunications technology, public transport, accommodation and safety and security matters are an absolute must which Qatar can probably handle.
But Qatar has one heated problem – the heat. The World Cup is staged at the height of summer; there’s no choice but to hold the competition in June and July, Qatar’s hottest months where temperatures under the scorching summer sun can soar to 50 C and above.
Again, Qatar will throw money at the problem. Its bid proposes to build nine new fully air-conditioned open-air stadiums, both on the pitch and in the spectator area, that work using solar power. Solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels on the outside of the stadiums and on their roofs will mine energy from the blazing Qatari sun. They will be used to chill water, which in turn will cool air before it is blown through the stadium, keeping pitch temperatures below 27 C (80 F).
Stadium seats will be cooled using air pumped at the spectator ankle zone at a temperature of 18 C. The same air will also be projected from the back and neck area of the seats, ensuring that each seating row of each stadium provides maximum comfort. Cool air running up your legs and down your back. Cool!
The designs include retractable roofs to keep out the burning sun. They’ll close the roof on the days before a match so the temperature cools down before a game. The roof could stay closed during matches so that every seat in the stadium and the pitch is fully shaded, or if FIFA requires teams to play with an open roof, they can open it and still guarantee a temperature of 27 C. The same system would be used to cool the competing teams’ training facilities.
It would be the first time these technologies have been combined to keep a stadium cool. And while it isn’t economically viable to use solar power and initial expenditures on creating all these alternative energy systems can be fairly high, in Qatar they may not be concerned about payback at all.
But money can’t buy everything. You can’t be cooped up in an AC stadium or hotel room all day. Go out and it is hotter than most people have ever experienced.
Visitors are also warned against expecting to celebrate a win with a stadium beer or wallow away a loss in your neighborhood bar in Islamic Qatar.
How, moreover, will the conservative Qatari authorities deal with foreign women fans flashing more than V-signs?
Qatar is not tourism oriented. We don’t know what Qatar will look like 12 years from now but right now there aren’t too many places to visit. Qatar is not the liveliest or most colorful of the would-be World Cup hosts.
In fact, some people who don’t care much for football would argue that picking Qatar to host what they call the most boring game in the world would create the perfect match.