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Qatar's World Cup bid set on defying weather logic

23 March 2010 17:15

PARIS (AFP) - Qatar's bid to host a football World Cup at a time of year when temperatures are baking is brave, but the Gulf state is counting on high technology to overcome the potentially prickly problem.

Qatar has emerged as a serious contender for the 2022 World Cup, with a seemingly limitless budget and ambitious plans to drastically improve its poor transport network.

Importantly, with Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup, FIFA's policy of continental rotation will likely see the 2018 edition going to Europe and the race for 2022 coming down to bids from Asia and North America.

But temperatures can hit 41C in June and July in Qatar, with that rising even higher in full sun and in built-up areas where thousands of air-conditioning units pump out hot air as they cool buildings' interiors.

Having lost out in its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games after IOC members rebuffed Qatar's idea to move the Games to October to avoid the worst of the summer heat, research is now under way on some ground-breaking ideas.

"Currently, we are researching various cooling methods which are environmentally friendly and very effective," said Qatar 2022 chief executive officer Hassan al-Thawadi.

"We'll be unveiling a number of visionary, state-of-the-art ideas for iconic stadia and infrastructure and we're very excited by the challenge."

Gabriel Batistuta, the Argentinian striker who finished his career with Al-Arabi in Qatar, is a bid ambassador along with a host of former world renowned footballers.

"I would not be doing this job if I did not believe Qatar can really host the World Cup finals," he said, quoted by the Qatar National Olympic Committee's magazine.

"As for weaknesses, some people have suggested that the weather in summer could have been a potential stumbling block, but the Qataris are developing an amazing cooling system to combat the heat.

"If we have regulated temperatures inside stadia it helps everyone involved - from players to fans," he said, referring to the extreme heat he encountered when playing in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Fellow bid ambassador Ronald de Boer, who played for Qatari clubs Al-Rayyan and Al-Shamal after starring for Barcelona, Rangers and Ajax as well as winning 67 caps for the Netherlands, still lives in the Gulf state.

"For the World Cup, the cooling systems which Qatar is developing for stadiums could be a real asset for other countries with warmer climates around the world.

"Players never like to play in extremely hot conditions so temperature regulation inside stadiums seems the way forward to me.

"People in the Middle East are just longing to host such a big football tournament," he said, citing the reception afforded visiting European clubs and national sides, albeit largely in the cooler off-season time of year.

Qatar has cornered a large and profitable market with its sports infrastructure based around the impressive Aspire dome complex, recent host of the World Indoor Athletics Championships.

The country has also successfully hosted the 2006 Asian Games, regular top-level tennis, golf, squash, rallying and moto GP events, and was recently the venue for a Brazil v England football friendly.

Qatar 2022 CEO Al-Thawadi added that the compact geography of Qatar could be its major selling point rather than a detraction.

"There are immediate benefits for all fans who would not have to worry about booking accommodation in different cities in order to follow their teams throughout the tournament," Al-Thawadi said.

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