Qatar keeping cool as FIFA turns up heat on Cup dates

Updated: 2013-12-29 08:24

By AP(China Daily)

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Organizing committee for 2022 says it is prepared for all conditions, AP reports.

The debate might be raging over whether the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar should be switched to the winter, but the original owners are content to stick with the original summer dates. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has launched a consultation process over whether the soccer showpiece should be moved so as not to endanger players' and fans' health in the unbearable summer heat that can reach 50 Celsius.

Organizers, though, are adamant they can come through with their plans to keep the stadia cool.

 Qatar keeping cool as FIFA turns up heat on Cup dates

A computer depiction of the stadium to be built in Al-Wakrah for Qatar's 2022 World Cup. The state-of-the-art facility will seat about 40,000 spectators. Qatar 2022 committee / Agence France-Presse

Qatar keeping cool as FIFA turns up heat on Cup dates 

This model of the Al-Gharrafa stadium was shown to FIFA officials to demonstrate Qatar's plan to use high-tech air conditioning to keep World Cup stadiums cool in 2022. Karim Jaafar / Agence France-Presse

"We have always said that we can organize the World Cup in summer," said Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary-general of the organizing committee, at the recent Doha Goals forum.

"But if the world of football or FIFA wants to hold it in winter, we will be delighted and ready to. But if they want it in summer, we are also ready."

With work due to get underway on the first stadium, Al-Wakrah, 20 kilometers from Doha, in a few weeks, air conditioning will be one of the primary features of the building.

The organizers are aiming for temperatures of 25-26 C with the aid of the air conditioning.

"Air conditioning will be in both the stadia and on the training grounds," a source close to the organizing committee said.

"To make it air conditioned is not that difficult. The real challenge is to consume the least amount of energy possible.

"We are reflecting on the questions over shade and sunlight, the time of the kickoffs, etc," he said.

However, not all are convinced top-class athletes would suffer playing in such hot temperatures.

Sebastien Racinais, a French physiologist living in Qatar, said there are many examples of athletes defying high temperatures and even posting performances that are better than those under more clement conditions.

"There are many examples which show it is possible to play sport in extreme weather conditions," he said.

"We spoke a lot about the heat and humidity of Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Qatar keeping cool as FIFA turns up heat on Cup dates

"It was written that it would be impossible to run the men's marathon in under three hours.

"The race was won in 2 hr, 6 min (2:6:32 by Kenya's Kenneth Wanjiru), breaking the Olympic record by three minutes."

Racinais said if the teams prepare correctly there will be little difference in the effects of heat on the players.

"The players are going to have to adapt to the heat by training in a hot environment," he said.

"Some of them will adapt very quickly, other more slowly.

"The average time for adapting will be between 10 days and two weeks. If you compare matches played in a temperate environment and a hot one, the findings are that the level of fatique at the end of the match and the recovery period is the same: 24 to 48 hours.

"Thus the teams are going to have to adapt their recuperation routines but will be able to play games at the same rate as usual.

"They won't be able to cover as much ground as usual in matches but they will be able to sprint at their normal speed, in some cases faster.

"Also in a hot environment, passing is more accurate. If the teams run less, the pressure from the opponent is logically less."

Another thorny issue over moving the dates is the effect on the 2022 Winter Olympics, with Blatter preferring November-December rather than January-February, which would impinge on the likely Games dates.

There could also be trouble with American broadcasters such as Fox and NBC, who in the months of November and December are tied into broadcasting the NFL, although according to several sources BeIn Sport America, subsidiary of Qatari TV broadcaster Al Jazeera, would be more than willing to step into the breach.

Whether by staying loyal to the original summer dates improves the chances of the national side not being embarrassed is debatable. What is not is that Qatar investing millions in young talent.

It has hired Ivan Bravo, formerly director of strategy at Real Madrid, who is head of the "Aspire Academy" where he will focus on developing soccer players between the ages of 14-18 and whom he hopes will form the backbone of the future national side.

Some recent results have been encouraging. The Under-16 side beat the youth team of German side Borussia Moenchengladbach 7-1 while the Qatari Under-19 team beat the Brazilian Under-20 team.

Bravo, though, is realistic.

"We are going to approach this humbly. These results don't mean we are as good as Brazil," he said.

"Think of what makes up a national side. You have to have a coach, and players reaching maturity at the right time.

"But these good results are a sign that we can compete against any side."

(China Daily 12/29/2013 page12)