Qatar pitches cool World Cup bid

By Neil Heathcote
BBC World, Dubai

Image caption,
England played Brazil in a friendly in Qatar last November

Qatar is pitching to host the soccer World Cup in 2022.

The country is small, it's hot and it's known for gas rather than sport.

So can this desert state of less than two million people convince football's world governing body Fifa that it's the right place to host the event?

When the movers and shakers of the sports world gathered recently in Dubai for Sport Accord, Qatar unveiled its bid to host the event in 2022.

That plan includes plans for three new stadiums and upgrades to two more.

And it has plans up its sleeve to tackle what is often perceived as the major stumbling block to an Arab nation hosting the World Cup - its weather.

Open-air event

"[The World Cup] should be given to Qatar, because it's time for it to be given to the Middle East," says Qatar 2022 chairman, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

His is the only country from the region bidding for the event, and he's hoping it will showcase a more positive side to the region.

"Unfortunately the depiction of the Middle East in the news doesn't do justice to what we have to offer," he says.

But even he acknowledges the country has an image problem with what he calls it's 'infamous weather'.

Image caption,
Part of the Qatar bid includes new transport systems

The bid guarantees that the temperature inside the stadiums will stay at a comfortable 27 degrees for fans and players - no matter how hot outside.

"I know there have been rumours around saying it's going to be an indoor World Cup, but all of that is false - it's an open-air World Cup experience," says Sheikh Mohammed.

But how exactly will games be able to be staged outdoors? Thanks to cooling technology for the stadiums that will, among other things, blow cool air over the ankles and necks of spectators.

It sounds weird. But the government is convinced it will work.

Fifa officials will be able to make up their own minds this summer: a demonstration building is being set up for them to try out, when temperatures outdoors are likely to top 40 degrees centigrade.

The system is designed to be carbon neutral and can be replicated elsewhere.

Solar power will light and cool the buildings, and will feed electricity into the national grid when they're not being used.

It's all existing technology, but put together in a novel way.

Weather plan

Sheikh Mohammed hopes it will leave a broader legacy. The technology will be donated to developing countries, so they can play football all year round.

"The weather will no longer inhibit any nation from hosting a World Cup," he says.

The state is planning a major overhaul of local transport, including a new metro system and a bridge to neighbouring Bahrain.

All this means fans should be able to get from one stadium to another within an hour - and see several games in a day.

It's an expensive plan. But the bid is backed by the government, and the country is sitting on the world's third largest gas reserves, so cash is not really a problem.

Even so, it claims the bid will turn a profit.

"We will make up everything we spend, and more," says Sheikh Mohammed, pointing out that much of the investment is already budgeted for as part of the government's Qatar 2030 development plan.

Alcohol available

Some of the stadiums will be built anyway as part of its strategy to promote sport locally.

Image caption,
The Qatar stadiums have been designed to be dismantled afterwards

And the country doesn't need many large, permanent venues, so they would be built with modular upper levels that can be taken down after the tournament.

These structures would then be sent off overseas, for developing countries to use with their own sports stadiums.

It's certainly ambitious, and Qatar's bid faces plenty of competition.

But if it does win, Qatar is willing to cut supporters a little slack.

There will be fan zones created specifically for the World Cup where alcohol would be available. And you can wear swimwear by the hotel pool.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.