Qatar races to develop solar stadium cooling

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Qatar is racing to develop efficient solar-powered cooling technology to counter the searing heat of the Middle Eastern summer in its stadiums during the 2022 soccer World Cup, a senior organising committee official told Reuters.

Nasser Al-Khater, the organising committee's communications and marketing director, also said the tiny gulf state would construct its stadiums with modular technology so it could downscale them after the tournament, and donate seating to countries with little sports infrastructure.

Al-Khater said the wealthy emirate already boasted the world's first cooled stadium, albeit with traditional energy sources. Temperatures in Qatar can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months.

"We showed (world governing body) FIFA how the cooling technology works, it was warm outside but in stadium was cold they wanted their jackets," Al-Khater said during a trip to Berlin for a Qatari business and investment conference.

"So cooling a stadium is not the issue."

The issue is that Qatar has promised to hold a carbon-neutral World Cup and so is researching solar-powered cooling technology. It will either create a central solar power farm or have individual ones installed in each of the 12 stadiums it is building, said Al-Khater.

"When you don't use it for the stadiums you feed it into the grid," he said.

The emirate developed a small, solar-powered prototype stadium seating 500 during the bid process but wants to develop more efficient technologies ahead of 2022.

"With solar, the big challenge is how do you deal with solar technology in the desert in terms of withstanding the elements and getting it clean so it is efficient," Al-Khater said.

He said he had met several German companies during his trip to Berlin that had interesting proposals. Germany has been a pioneer in solar technology.

Many leading voices in football such as UEFA president Michel Platini have called for the World Cup to be held in December or January, when the average temperature is 17 degrees, rather than in the middle of the year.

Historically, the World Cup has always been held in June and July and any change could lead to a major scheduling headache with the major European leagues normally playing through the winter. Qatar's right to stage the 2022 World Cup if the event is moved to the winter months would also be open to a legal challenge.

Al-Khater said Qatar would go ahead researching and installing the cooling technology either way as the stadiums would be used in the summer months even after the World Cup.

"Whether it is a winter or summer World Cup we will be ready," he said.

Al-Khater said Qatar, a tiny country home to just 1.7 million inhabitants, was using modular seating for the upper tiers of its new stadiums in order to be able to downsize after the World Cup. "The idea is we will contribute the seats to countries that need to develop their sporting infrastructure."

He said it was too early to discuss whether or not alcohol, which is legal in Qatar albeit under restrictions, would be allowed in the stadiums.

"One thing we want people to know is alcohol is not part of our culture," he said. "And every World Cup you go to, people experience the local culture, its differences and similarities."

Though led by a ruling family viewed as highly progressive by Gulf standards, the fact remains that most Qataris are very conservative. Most practice Wahhabism, the austere form of Islam also practiced in Saudi Arabia.

"We will come up with a solution that will keep everyone happy, so whether it means certain zones where alcohol is permitted, or another type of arrangement," he said. "Around the world people are steering away from alcohol in the stadium."

Al-Khater said he hoped hosting the World Cup would further bolster Qatar's status as a sports hub in the region.

"Qatar is also a second home to many teams that find they cant host matches, for example it is home turf for Iraq for their qualifying matches," he said.

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Posted by: Poz

A technology to cool 800 thousand cubic meters is, anyway, an expensive technology!!

Let?s hope they will use renewable energy to do it!!

Posted by: Monkey Tennis

1994 US - the yanks don't understand football, it'll be a disaster, they don't deserve it, they'll want bigger goals and no draws, they'll insist on playing quarters to suit US TV etc, etc... Average attendance per game 69,000; tournament acknowledged as a major success.
2002 - Japan/Korea - Asians can't play football, they don't deserve it, they all support Man U anyway and know nothing about the game, it's too hot and humid in the summer, no-one wants to travel between two countries etc..etc... Both hosts put in credible performances leading to more Asian footballers in major leagues and a new found respect for SE Asian football. Tournament a success.
2010 - South Africa - you must be joking, it isn't safe, no-one will travel there, FIFA need their heads examining; if supporters can't travel in safety they don't deserve the world cup. Tournament a success, minimal trouble.

It goes with the territory. Good luck Qatar in solving your particular challenges.

Posted by: Monkey Tennis

"If the small guys are to be given a chance - which is the spirit of these large sporting events". Nice if it was true but I fear the Corinthian spirit is long dead in world football. As for that dangerous path, we're already long past the point of no return - the small guys have no chance anymore; the cost of staging an event of this kind is mind-blowing regardless of the sponsorship money involved; the list of nations capable of doing this in the modern era is small indeed. Putting aside the money factor, this is a region with a large number of players, some very passionate supporters and increasingly some very high quality players - it has never been anything but 6-7 hours flying time away from the nearest World Cup; awarding it once out of the first 22 held is hardly preferential treatment. Finally, as someone who watched football in the 70s and 80s in the UK, I'd be more than happy with an alcohol ban.

Posted by: Billy

Oh dear you are going down a very dangerous path if you are suggesting that because Middle East companies own European football teams they should be given preferential treatment in their footballing aspirations. If you follow that road of giving benefits to those areas that most influence football then the Middle East has no chance......European football and perhaps South America are by far the most influential in the world so if you follow your argument - which I think is a disastrous route - the world cup would never be outside the major European/S American cities. If the small guys are to be given a chance - which is the spirit of these large sporting events, they should be judged on their individual merit. Qatar won with a bid for a summer event and that is what they should stage. If they claimed they had the technology to make it possible then that is what they have to provide. Full stop.

Posted by: kingkaiser

Doug, this may be a good thing for Qatar, and lead to a lot more openness and increasing liberal views. All this money wasn't spent to have people show up and kick a ball around; it was to create some prominence on the international stage, and potentially increase foreign investment and tourist inflows.

Consequently, I imagine that Qatar will have to relax its attitude towards alcohol, since otherwise this will be the last event they host, and will have spent billions just to have everyone talk about what a boring venue it was. Secondly, they will also have to relax attitudes towards unmarried people sharing rooms; again, spending billions only to have negative publicity when 30% of the tourists are arrested (for something very normal globally) isnt in their best interests.

Posted by: Monkey Tennis

Doug - my point is that many previous World Cups have overcome problems and my guess is so will this one, although it may seem insurmountable to many. I like to support anyone with ambition who takes on a challenge. Inherent in that is the possibility of failure. I love the optimism of this region; when Londoners were moaning that the Olympics were going to be a logistics disaster, Emirati and Qatari colleagues of mine told me they were confident it would be a huge success. They want to see things happen. I like that. If I were a betting man, which I am not, I'd put money on the fact the WC will go ahead, it will occur in the Winter months and the switch will be supported by every major European league and broadcasting network. The Middle East is a major player in football financing now and together with Russia simply cannot be ignored any longer - Real Madrid, Barcleona, Malaga, PSG, Man City.... Let's be supportive of the latest members of football's global family.

Posted by: Soccer on the sun

Cooling the stadiums is a much smaller issue to deal with the heat I feel than how to keep the tens of thousands of fans and support staff cool when not in the air conditioned stadium!
All these people will be risking heat and sunstroke by the thousands when waiting outside for transportation, waiting outside to get in the stadium, working as support for the event, etc.
I live in Qatar for 9 years and in June it is unbearably hot outside!As Telcoguy states, 41c is in the shade. There will be thousands of people in the direct sunlight experiencing temperatures up to 50c!

Posted by: Dubai Resident

@ Qatari - another glib comment
You may live chilled air comfort but it is still 35 degrees + at night and the humidity is over 75 as you well know. Try running around in that for 10 minutes, let alone 90 minutes.

Posted by: procan

Please correct me but are not the temperatures in the plus 50c in the summer? The race for technology to cool Qatar stadiums is not in Qatar . Wesern technology is are doing the work ,Qatar is simply paying the Bill.

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