The first-ever FIFA World Cup due to be held in the winter time will take place in Qatar, between 20 November and 18 December, with 32 teams at the start. The reason for moving the traditional summer slot to winter was the scorching heat of the summer in the Middle East state, with temperatures normally reaching 40-45 C during the months of June and July.
Still, Qatar has made huge strides since being awarded the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to create a safe environment both for players and fans, investing a vast amount of time, money, and research to make the competition run smoothly, since the average temperature will still be around 24 C when the tournaments kick off with the game between the hosts, Qatar, and Ecuador.
One of the biggest hurdles was lowering the temperatures in the stadiums and the primary solution was to install air-conditioning technology in every stadium, pumping in cool air, with a solar-powered system.
The main principle behind the solution was to make the stadium act as a barrier that contains a cold bubble inside, through a combination of insulation and spot cooling, which roughly translates as the cooling only taking place where people actually are – namely inside the stadium.
The driving force behind the project was the Sudan-born professor, Dr. Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, whose nickname is ”Dr Cool”, a nod for his work to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup a better experience for all the shareholders involved.
Dr. Saud joined the Qatar 2022 project 13 years ago, when the tournament was not awarded yet by FIFA and Qatar was bidding for the hosting rights. The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) reached out to Qatar University (QU), where he is a professor at the College of Engineering.
The main idea behind the project was not just to create a cooling system designed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but also for the Qatari league, played between August and April, sometimes in scorching heat during the summertime.
“When we were preparing our submission for the World Cup in 2022, we wanted a unique bid that would stand out among other bidding countries. Most countries would usually present their stadiums as a design idea and not a technology. We presented our stadiums in a new way – as a technology,” said Dr. Saud for FIFA’s official website.
According to the official website of the competition, the technology is roughly 40% more sustainable than the previously existing techniques, and the method used for cooling down the stadiums only kicks in two hours prior to the start of the match, enough time for the temperature to be lowered with 10 C.
Inside the bubble, players and fans will be kept at 21 Cby jets blasting air at the pitch side and under spectators’ seats. A plethora of sensors around the stadium will keep the temperature constant and even adjust air flows for seats in the shade or sun, depending on the conditions and time. The rising air is sucked back into the stadium cooling system, cleaned by water kept at a brisk 7 C and pumped out again by the jets.
The Qatar University professor worked closely with the organizing committee to offer efficient and environment-friendly solutions to cool the eight stadiums that will host matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with seven of those arenas being specifically built for the tournament.
At the eighth one, the Khalifa International Stadium, completed in 2017, Dr. Saud proposed a special solution, with a canopy that protects seating areas from the scorching sun and a special version of the cooling technology.
Another venue of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the “Al Bayt Stadium”, which will host the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador, was initially designed with a darker façade, but changing it to a lighter one made the arena lower its temperature by a full 5 C.
“The biggest thing working against you when you’re trying to cool a stadium is the opening of the stadium’s roof because that is where external hot air enters. That’s why studying where air can exit and how we can push and pull back air differs from stadium to stadium as it depends on its shape, height and width.”
“Our stadiums can be used 24/7, all year round, leaving a legacy for Qatar after the tournament – and leaving no white elephants,” added Dr. Saud.
It is projected that during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the eight stadiums will have a temperature of 18-24 C, while the outside temperature will roughly be between 20-30 C, yet Dr. Saud’s system is just the tip of the iceberg, with Qatar boasting a great infrastructure for continuing their journey in football in safe conditions.