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2022 Qatar World Cup: Technology, Innovation and the future

When Qatar was named host of the world’s biggest sports tournament, it signed up to a series of ambitious promises that the 2022 World Cup would be the most sustainable and tech-savvy in history.  But making these promises become a reality is easier said than done, especially when the entire planet is watching your every step.

Preparation is key

Back in 2009, well before the bid to host the World Cup was won by Qatar, the Gulf country was already getting ready for the future. The Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD), based at the Qatar Science and Technology Park, had already developed the green building Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) standards that guided the Qataris in their design and build process for the eight new FIFA stadiums needed for the tournament.

Adopted by the organizing committee and approved by FIFA after review by an independent expert panel, the GSAS standards truly changed the way we look at how we build sports infrastructure. Why? Well, mainly because the newly built Qatari stadiums truly adhere to some of the strictest environmental standards. They will achieve energy savings of 45% compared to those designed to meet standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and they will use 44% less water compared to the ones designed according to the International Plumbing Code standards.

“Purely in environmental terms, the blueprint of the first such showpiece staged in the Middle East not only looks miles ahead of the curve, but a decent template for major 21st-century high-density sporting events”, said Louise Taylor, a The Guardian online columnist.

A carbon-neutral World Cup

When Qatar boasts of having organized the first carbon-neutral World Cup, they’re not kidding whatsoever. The competition, hosted within a 31-mile radius of Doha, features one of the most well-integrated infrastructure plans in history. Of the eight grounds, the closest are three miles apart but integrated walking trails, cycle paths, and light railways will enable fans to move freely around the city and between the stadiums. No personal cars, only public transportation.

As for the stadiums themselves, seven of the eight will feature Advanced Colling Tech, a revolutionary technology that will keep the atmosphere inside the stadium cooled, for both the players and the fans. How does it work? An energy center near the stadium will deliver chilled water in a pipeline to the venue, after which cold air is pushed onto the field of play and spectator seating areas. Sounds crazy enough? Well, that’s because it is, this being the first time that such a technology is set to be implemented. Call that revolutionary!

Apart from the new cooling tech, some of the stadiums are modular – assembled from easy-to-deconstruct shipping containers, ready for partial or entire dismantling. Stadium 974, for example, is the world’s first-ever fully demountable venue in the history of the World Cups.  Why is this important? Well, gives its cost effectiveness, this technology will prove to be a game changer in the near future, allowing countries to build cheap and environmental-friendly stadiums at a low cost.

It will also allow the host country to avoid creating “white elephant” venues that are often abandoned after the tournament has ended. The Qataris have already announced that it has developed plans for each stadium after the games are over, with some even being considered to be donated to other countries.

“No other country has engaged so deeply with its citizens to ensure a sustainable legacy is left behind after a FIFA World Cup”, a spokesperson for the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.

Technology and football

The official match ball for the 2022 World Cup, named “Al Rihla”, is nothing short of an innovative product. The match ball will feature technology that will relay real-time data to VAR officials, the first time ever for a World Cup ball. The new Adidas Suspension System, located in the center of the ball with a motion sensor, will collaborate with FIFA’s new Semi-automated Offside Technology, thus allowing the referees to make perfectly sound decisions on the spot.

As for the semi-automated Offside Technology itself, the new technology will have 12 tracking cameras around the stadium apart from a sensor inside the new Al Rihla ball that will provide an automatic offside alert to the Video Assistant Referee every time the ball is played to a player in an offside position. Say goodbye to the countless replays to determine whether a player is offside or not, the new tech will make all the football games more accurate and stress-free from now on!

The 2022 World Cup has, above all else, led to a technological revolution in the middle-east. The “Challenge 22”, a competition initiated by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Qatar, has allowed start-ups to compete against one another for the best innovative product. This tech competition has seen revolutionary apps such as “Bonocle” make their debut, forever changing the way we look at football.

Bonocle will convert digital content around the World Cup into Braille, allowing visually-impaired fans from across the globe to access the content and enjoy the World Cup. The blind community will experience its first World Cup in new ways that were never available before. It will improve their ability to move around Doha with fewer restrictions, and it will allow them to feel and experience their love for football in a revolutionary way. And the best thing is that Bonocle will be used even after the tournament ends, forever changing the way the visually impaired fans will experience sports events.

Fans arriving in Doha in the following weeks need to rest assured that the 2022 World Cup will keep them comfortable through varied innovative solutions. The Qataris have connected a series of sensors around the capital city that will make it easier for fans to plan the best route using real-time information about traffic, taxis, the new metro system, and even venue entrances and exits. Visitors will be able to download a custom smartphone app made by the Qatari Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC) that will use this real-time information to make their journey to stadiums easier.

The Legacy of Qatar

When Qatar first won its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, many critics lashed out at the decision, citing the difficulties that the Gulf country will face in its attempts to organize the tournament. But here we are, less than a few weeks before the first match, ready to enjoy what Doha will have to offer.

The tiny but rich Gulf state has managed to do the impossible: appease most of its virulent critics while simultaneously leading a tech revolution the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. Because make no mistake, all of these innovative solutions will help the entire world, not just Qatar. From the way we build stadiums, to how we design our public infrastructure and how we help the less unfortunate experience football, all of these revolutionary solutions will be used in all future competitions from across the globe. And we should celebrate this!

One can look at the 2022 World Cup and see all the negatives and call it a day. But one can also choose to celebrate human innovation and ingenuity and see how Qatar has forever changed the way we look at international sport competitions. It’s undeniable that the progress made by such a small country will move the entire world towards a better, greener future. It’s unquestionable that the technologies used by the Qataris will be adopted by most countries and by FIFA itself. The risky bet to host the World Cup in Qatar has finally paid off. And the entire planet is a winner.

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