DOHA, Qatar. The sun rises before 5 am and immediately starts convection throughout the city. By noon, the temperature had completed its methodical climb up the scale from unaccustomed, through uncomfortable, to unbearable, and finally to unhealthy. The breeze from the bay brings no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot.
Qatar was supposed to host the World Cup this summer, an idea that seems as ridiculous now as it did a dozen years ago when the tiny Persian Gulf country, shall we say, acquired the right to host the world’s largest football championship. FIFA’s own raters called the Gulf Summer World Cup a “high risk” and a single morning outing this week confirmed that assessment. However, for years the Qatari organizers have promised to deliver what they have to offer, whatever FIFA asks for: new stadiums, new hotels, new refrigeration technologies, new frontiers for football.
The organizers, of course, eventually came to their senses, or at least to the feeling that allows people to distinguish hot from hot anvil of the sun, and in 2015 they postponed the tournament to the winter. However, the past week has given a glimpse of what could have been.
Over the course of eight days, three intercontinental playoff games were held in Qatar, during which the last two teams for this year’s World Cup were determined: Australia as well as Costa Rica. Like many important events that have taken place in Doha in recent years, these matches gave Qatar an opportunity to test its capabilities, its infrastructure and its tolerance for all disparate guests.
What did that look into the future look like this week? Both encouraging and incomplete, depending on the point of view.
Five months before the first match of the World Cup, Qatar seems to have done everything right. Seven of the eight air-conditioned stadiums built or refurbished for the World Cup have hosted matches, and the largest (and last) stadium will host its first test events in the coming months. All but one of the arenas can be reached via one of three shiny new subway lines that race under and through the capital, and work continues every day on office towers, apartment buildings, roads and sidewalks. However, with so much in the pipeline, seeing Qatar this summer so close to its big moment is seeing a place that is under development, not a completed vision.
Peru had the most fans of any country playing this week, a noisy army of over 10,000, but you could walk long blocks through the city every morning without seeing a soul. Many residents and visitors only came out in the evening to drink coffee, stroll through the parks and green spaces, and wander through the Souq Waqif, the capital’s remodeled market, filling its tables as they disappeared into the labyrinth of stalls and shops. But even as locals, Qatari families and South Asian workers pulled out their phones to take pictures and video of fans enjoying this place they probably never thought to visit, one couldn’t help but feel that none of them could still be I’m sure November will bring.
The organizers expect a total of over a million fans to come to Qatar during the World Cup – 32 groups of fans, just like in Peru, but also neutral, all crowding the same venues, competing for the same hotels and tables in a cafe, everyone is waving their hands. their own colors and carrying their hopes.
Questions persist about where all these guests will sleep, eat, shop and drink. Cruise ships and campgrounds can help solve this first problem, which remains the biggest unanswered question for fans and organisers. Qatar’s decision to require those attending the World Cup to have proof of ticket purchase to enter the country or book a hotel room could help reduce the number of cases. Football-loving Saudis and Emiratis could cross the border to bring back those numbers. But the tournament is also four full days shorter than its predecessors in Brazil and Russia; if it turns into a chaotic mess, then at least it will be shorter.
Qatar has a few more months to sort out the final details, find a facility and rent buses and boats for Qatar to produce the promised brilliant specimen to bring all this shiny new soft power to bear.
Heat? It’s so low on Qatar’s list of problems that officials and engineers now brush it off with a wave of their hand. Anyone who has spent time in the Persian Gulf in the winter will tell you knows that the mercury column drops into the 80s by then and it gets cooler at night. Can it bring down the temperature, literally and figuratively, in fan zones and other places? May be.
On game days, this is not necessary. The stadium’s air conditioning systems were running as advertised throughout the week; on Monday, during Australia’s victory over Peru, blowers and vents built into the 40,000-seat Al Rayyan Stadium cooled the match down to a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius), although the outside of the stadium’s open roof was still much higher than 90 degrees. and rotating shell metal structure.
In a few months, the latest and most advanced system built into the 80,000-seat model stadium in Lusail, which will host 10 matches, including the final, will pass its final test. The engineer who designed it promised this week that it would work. He remarked with a laugh that he calculated himself.