Sports · June 24, 2022

In the summer of the World Cup in Qatar, mercury rises and ticks

DOHA, Qatar – The sun rises before 5 am and immediately puts the entire city in the convection oven. By lunchtime, the temperature finished its methodical climb, from unusual to uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The bay wind offers no relief; in June in Doha even the summer breeze blows warm.

This was supposed to be the summer of the World Cup in Qatar, an idea that seems as absurd now as it was a dozen years ago, when the small Gulf country, let’s say, acquired hosting rights for the biggest football league. The same FIFA evaluators had labeled a summer World Cup in the Gulf as “high risk” and a single morning walk this week confirmed that assessment. Yet, for years, Qatar organizers promised to deliver what they had proposed, whatever FIFA asked: new stadiums, new hotels, new cooling technologies, a new frontier for football.

The organizers, of course, eventually came to their senses, or at least that one sense that allows humans to differentiate heat from the anvil of the hot sun, and in 2015 they moved the tournament to winter. Last week, however, it offered a glimpse of what might have been.

In eight days, Qatar hosted three intercontinental playoff games that determined the last two teams on the pitch for this year’s World Cup: Australia and Costa Rica. Like many of the major events hosted in Doha in recent years, the matches were an opportunity for Qatar to test its facilities, its infrastructure and its tolerance for all the most disparate guests.

How did that look into the future feel to you this week? Both reassuring and incomplete, depending on the perspective.

Five months after the opening match of the World Cup, Qatar seems to have done the important things well. Seven of the eight air-conditioned stadiums built or refurbished for the World Cup have hosted matches and the largest (and last) will have its first test events in the coming months. All but one arenas are accessible by one of three gleaming new subway lines that pass under and through the capital, and work on office towers, apartment buildings, streets and sidewalks continues every day. Even with so many things to do, however, seeing Qatar this summer, so close to its big moment, is seeing a place that is a work in progress rather than a completed vision.

Peru brought the largest number of fans of any country to play this week, a rowdy army of over 10,000 men, but it was possible to walk long blocks without seeing a soul every morning. Many residents and visitors emerged only in the evening, to sip a coffee, stroll in the parks and green spaces and stroll through the Souk Waqif, the reconstructed market of the capital, filling its tables, disappearing into its maze of stalls and shops. But even though the locals, Qatari families and South Asian workers took out their phones to take photos and record videos of those fans enjoying this place they probably never thought of visiting, it couldn’t be done. unless they felt that none of them could yet be sure what November would bring.

The organizers predict that more than a million fans in all will enter Qatar during the World Cup: 32 cheering sections, just like that of Peru, but also neutral, all crowded in the same spaces, competing for the same hotels and tables. from coffee, all waving their colors and carrying their hopes.

Questions persist about where all those guests will sleep, eat, shop, and drink. Cruise ships and tent cities can help with that first problem, which remains the biggest unanswered question for fans and organizers alike. Qatar’s decision to require those participating in the World Cup to have proof of purchase of a ticket to enter the country or book a hotel room could help keep the numbers down. Football-loving Saudis and Emirates may flock across the border to bring those numbers back up, but the tournament is also four full days shorter than its predecessors in Brazil and Russia; if it turns into a chaotic mess, at least it will be shorter.

There are still a few months to sort out the final details, to find the room and rent the buses and boats, for Qatar to produce the exhibit it promised, to flex all that brilliant new soft power.

The heat? It’s so low on Qatar’s list of worries that officials and engineers now dismiss it with a wave of the hand. Anyone who has spent time in the Gulf in the winter, they will tell you, knows that mercury drops in the 1980s and it gets cooler at night. Could this lower the temperature, literally and figuratively, in fan areas and elsewhere? can be

On game days it won’t be necessary. The stadium’s air conditioning systems worked as advertised all week; On Monday, during Australia’s penalty shoot-out victory over Peru, fans and vents built into the 40,000-seat Al Rayyan stadium cooled the game to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius), though it was still well over 90 degrees off the stadium’s open roof and swirling metal shell.

In a few months, the latest and most elaborate integrated system in the 80,000-seat stadium in Lusail, which will host 10 matches, including the final, will undergo final testing. The engineer who designed it promised this week that it would work. He had, he noted with a laugh, done the math himself.