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Qatar promises air-conditioned World Cup

By Mark Tutton for CNN
  • Qatar win right host 2022 World Cup
  • It plans to use solar power to air condition its stadiums
  • Some modular stadiums will be dismantled after tournament
  • Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to stage the event

(CNN) -- Qatar has won the race to host the 2022 World Cup, and will become the first Middle Eastern country to hold the tournament.

For the tiny desert state, where summer temperatures soar over 40 C (104 F), it is a triumph of ambition and technology.

As recently as November, FIFA expressed concerns over the country's climate, which it said should be considered "a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators."

But football's governing body seems to have been swayed by Qatar's plans to overcome the sweltering heat by building nine new fully air-conditioned open-air stadiums that work using solar power.

Solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels on the outside the stadiums and on their roofs will harness energy from the blazing Qatari sun.

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It will be used to chill water, which in turn will cool air before it is blown through the stadium, keeping pitch temperatures below 27 C (80 F).

Qatar 2022's bid book director Yasir Al Jamal said it would be the first time these technologies have been combined to keep a stadium cool.

"Stadium seats will be cooled using air pumped at the spectator ankle zone at a temperature of 18 C," he said.

"The same air will also be projected from the back and neck area of the seats, ensuring that each seating row of each stadium provides maximum comfort and enjoyment to fans," he continued.

Jamal said the photovoltaic panels will export electricity to Qatar's national grid, which will make the cooling system carbon neutral.

He added that the same system would be used to cool the competing teams' training facilities.

News that Qatar will host the World Cup was greeted with jubilation in its capital, Doha. "We're not only going to host a successful World Cup, we're going to host the best World Cup ever," said Qatari Mohammed Al-Jofairi.

It's a major coup for a country with a population of less than one million and currently placed 113th in the FIFA world rankings.

Qatar has previously hosted global sporting events -- but never in the summer.

It staged the Asian Games in December 2006 and the World Indoor Athletic Championships earlier this year.

But Doha's bid to host the 2016 Olympics, which proposed holding the games in October, when temperatures would be slightly more forgiving, was rejected.

And with the World Cup having to fit in around the European football season, there's no choice but to hold the competition in June and July -- Qatar's hottest months.

One man who knows about building stadiums that are used in extreme heat is Jack Boyle, principal and senior architect with Populous. He designed the University of Phoenix stadium, in Arizona.

Arizona endures similar summer temperatures to Qatar and like Qatar's proposed venues, the Phoenix stadium is cooled by air conditioning -- although it is powered by conventional energy.

Boyle said that while it wasn't economically viable to use solar power at the Phoenix stadium, it could work for Qatar.

"I think if you've got a tremendous amount of solar radiation on the site, as you would in Qatar, and plenty of vacant land, there's no reason not to do that," he said.

"First cost [initial expenditures] on creating all these alternative energy systems can be fairly high, so you just need to look at what your payback is going to be. But in Qatar, they may not be concerned about payback at all."

Qatar plans to use 12 stadiums to host the competition and German architects AS&P have produced conceptual designs for nine new stadiums, and upgrades to three existing venues.

As well as using solar power to cool the stadiums, AS&P partner Joachim Schares said their designs include retractable roofs, to keep out the blazing sun.

"We will close the roof in the days before the match so the temperature cools down before the match," he said.

"The roof could stay closed [during matches] so that every seat in the stadium and the pitch is fully shaded, or if FIFA requires teams to play with an open roof we could open it and still guarantee a temperature of 27 C."

Some of the stadiums will feature a modular design that means they can be dismantled after the tournament and rebuilt in countries looking to develop their football infrastructure.

Keir Radnedge of World Soccer Magazine said, "This is a leap into the unknown. It's the first Muslim country to host the World Cup and the first Middle East country to host the World Cup, and I think that's probably an attraction for FIFA to go there.

"That's going to be an amazing experience, an amazing journey."

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