The 2022 football World Cup, which will be held in Qatar, will witness some mind-boggling outdoor — that is open air — cooling technology which is unheard of in the game’s history. In a country where temperatures are expected to reach 45 to 50 degrees Centigrade, it is not only impossible for the spectators to sit and enjoy the matches but it is also inhuman to have players playing the game on the field. In fact, football’s governing body, FIFA has come in for much criticism from the West for awarding the World Cup to Qatar in spite of the harsh conditions there. In fact, a campaign is going on in Europe for taking away from Qatar the rights to hold the World Cup amid charges of bribery of FIFA officials. To start with, Qatar plans to blunt the harsh temperatures by technological brilliance which, when executed, will be a marvel.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to some experts who are overseeing Qatar’s World Cup preparations in an attempt to understand how both players and fans could stay comfortable in such hostile conditions.
Most countries would have solved the problem with retractable or closed roofing, with cooling inside. However, Qatar has thought out-of-the-box to outwit the oppressive heat. According to Hasan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee planning for the World Cup, the stadiums will stay open.
“So the cooling will happen in an open stadium. The challenge is immense when one is required to cool down temperatures in such a case,” said Al Thawadi.
How will temperatures be brought down in an open stadium? It will be done through solar power. Al Thawadi said that the organisers would resort to a central solar power farm or have separate solar power farms around all the 12 stadia. Cool air would be pumped into the spectator zone, to the back of the spectators’ seats. Image 2nd
When asked how solar panels would assist in the cooling, Al Thawadi said that the solar energy collected by the panels would be used to power a huge absorption chiller, which would chill the water installed in huge boilers outside the stadium.
“The temperature of the water is 6 degree centigrade and this cold water will then be used to cool the air. The air will then be circulated inside the stadium through a canopy roof which will be rotated to provide shade,” he said.
This cooling system has been prevalent in Qatar for quite some time. In fact, one of the major factors which led the FIFA to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup was this revolutionary air-cooling technology which the Qatar authorities duplicated on a 500-seat capacity stadium. In 2010, a FIFA (World football body) technical panel of inspectors were given a live demonstration of this cooling technique.
Another interesting aspect to this cooling system is that there will be active and passive cooling areas inside the stadium.
“For instance, when the spectators approach the stadium from their respective transport zones, the temperature will gradually lower from 36 to 26 degrees. This is to ensure that the spectators are not exposed to the sudden fluctuations in temperature. We all know that a sudden drop in temperature can result in sickness in human beings and we want to ensure against this by providing these active and passive cooling zones,” Al Thawadi said
A. Anam, an Indian who is attached to the Secretary, Sports Press Committee, Qatar Olympic Committee, recalls seeing this cooling system used in Qatar in 2008. “I remember seeing Al Saad Stadium using this technology in 2008. Al Saad is one of the Arab nation’s best football stadiums and also hosts the local derby,” he said.
Anam feels that the fact that Qatar has been using this technology for cooling its stadiums is going to work in its favour in 2022. “It is a big advantage that they already know what they are doing and to replicate that on a bigger scale in 2022 will be an easier task”, he said.
The Qatari innovation is not just restricted to a unique outdoor cooling system. In fact, after the 45-day World Cup the entire upper tier of the 12 stadia can be dismantled and then re-assembled. “This special feature in the 12 stadia is something unheard of in the annals of world football,” said an All India Football Federation (AIFF) official, who has seen Qatar’s bid. A Qatari official went to the extent of saying that his country would be donating this entire upper tier to the developing countries after the World Cup gets over.
A. Anam said that Qatar would like the 2022 World Cup to be remembered for its uniqueness. “With such innovation, Qatar would like the world to remember them for the state-of-the-art technology they provided during the World Cup,” Anam said.