x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Country is open to date switch but says it is committed to delivering games in summer.

Part of the cooling system at a stadium in Doha. Qater World Cup 2022 officials say, despite searing temperatures, air-conditioned stadiums can help make a summer tournament a possibility in the country. AP Photo
Part of the cooling system at a stadium in Doha. Qater World Cup 2022 officials say, despite searing temperatures, air-conditioned stadiums can help make a summer tournament a possibility in the country. AP Photo

Qatar maintains that it can host the 2022 World Cup in the summer, even as pressure mounts on Fifa to switch it to winter to save players and fans from intense heat in the Gulf.

The nation, where summer temperatures can exceed 45°C, was awarded the World Cup three years ago in a surprise decision.

Qatar said it was open to a switch to winter dates, but reiterated that, despite the extreme heat, it could stage the World Cup in summer by building air-conditioned stadiums using new, environmentally friendly technology.

“We bid for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in summer and are fully committed and working hard to deliver on these promises,” the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement yesterday.

“If the international football community asks us to move the timetable for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, we are able to do so, but the development and implementation of environmentally friendly cooling technologies remains an important legacy issue for our nation, region and many countries with similar climates.” How fans will deal with the heat away from the stadiums remains a worry. Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, recently said it was a mistake to plan for a summer tournament in the desert state.

The Qatar organising committee tried to allay those fears, saying solar-powered, air-conditioning technology could solve the problems.

“Creating comfortable conditions for public areas, walkways, training pitches and stadiums both during and after the World Cup means being able to play and watch football matches in summer throughout the country,” the organising committee said. “Cooling technology has existed at Jassim bin Hamad [Al Sadd] Stadium since 2008,” the group said of the Doha venue.

“This June, the stadium hosted a Fifa World Cup qualifier in cool and comfortable conditions.

“We are now in the process of developing and perfecting sustainable cooling technologies … to ensure that our Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup stadiums, training grounds and fan zones offer the optimal temperature for players and fans to enjoy the games.”

European football federations have suggested it would be “impossible” to stage the tournament in summer.

Calls to move the World Cup to the northern hemisphere winter have also met criticism, as it would disrupt domestic league competitions in European countries.

Last week, the association representing European clubs said they would not be opposed to a rescheduling of the tournament, but added they wanted to be consulted about the new timing.

* Reuters