The merits of holding a soccer World Cup in one of the hottest and driest countries in the world are shaky at best. The reasoning behind the decision may be questionable, but it is ultimately confirmed that we will have it in Qatar in 2022. This means that we need to make sure that we are making the most of this World Cup, even if it does interrupt national seasons and has created uproar from almost every single soccer organization across the world. So what can we do to create a successful World Cup in what will undoubtedly be very challenging conditions?
One of, and perhaps the only, bonus of the World Cup being in Qatar is that they seemingly have an infinite amount of money that can be thrown at it. Despite claims that it is for this reason alone that they won the bid to host the tournament, it also creates a situation where technology could take a lead role in making it a success.
Undoubtedly the most monumental hurdle to overcome is going to be the heat management inside
the stadiums. The average temperatures in Qatar will be hovering in the low 30 ̊C (86 fahrenheit) on average, even during the colder months.
This will take some doing, just as important as the players on the pitch, are going to be the hundreds of thousands of people spectating. Current technology simply will not allow for this kind of work to be done, with regular air conditioning shown not to be good enough in these kind of conditions.
As yet there have been no definitive answers to how this will be fixed and is being touted as the primary reason for the tournament being moved to the winter for the first time in its history.
In fact even the cooling system designed for the job, when initially conceived, was looked at sceptically as it would necessitate such a massive environmental impact that it would not conform to FIFA’s environmental policy.
One of the remarkable things about Qatar is that it is so small. It could fit into the UK 21 times and could fit into Texas over 60 times. This means that there are going to be significant logistical issues moving millions of people from across the world firstly into the country, then around it.
Simply having enough accommodation and infrastructure to allow millions of people to move throughout a country that is only seven times larger than London, but with a fraction of the historical infrastructure will require an in depth knowledge of how ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼and where people are moving, then creating systems that can incorporate this huge influx of people.
To do this, there will be a considerable reliance on the use of data and analytics being run in real-time. This will allow organizers to pinpoint potential bottlenecks or delayed areas, before rectifying them.
In Brazil 2014, 72% of all players were from European leagues, where temperatures are generally going to be cold and wet in December. Qatar on the other hand is going to be hot and dry, creating issues regarding player wellbeing.
To rectify this, wearable tech can be used to track a player’s state whilst playing. This could mean that players can remain hydrated, their heart rates and temperature can be monitored to make sure they are at peak condition on the pitch and not in danger of dehydration or worse.
We have seen that playing a high tempo sport like soccer in hot conditions can have dire consequences, so this kind of technology is a must for keeping players who will not be acclimatized to these conditions, fit and healthy.
The heat in Qatar, regardless of the time of year, is going to be the single biggest hurdle to overcome during this World Cup. There needs to be a considerable amount of time and effort spent on making sure that the health of players is at the forefront of people’s minds. New wearable technology may well be a key component of this. We have seen some being used today, but in 7 years time we are likely to be at a place that we would not even recognize today.
Custom Built Stadiums
One of the aspects of Qatar that many have criticized is that they do not have the world class stadiums necessary to host a World Cup. The reason for this being that they have no major football teams and a population of only 2.169 million. To put this in perspective, if every single
person from Qatar wanted to watch an English Premier League game, it would only take three rounds of matches before that was achieved.
It does leave them with a desirable outcome though, which is that through the use of data analysis they can design brand new stadiums that are optimized for hosting these kind of large games. The longevity of these stadiums is questionable, as without popular teams to play there or indeed enough people to fill them, they may simply be left empty. This is unlike many
of the stadiums built for the London 2012 olympics, which have either been repurposed (such as the main Olympic Stadium), taken down (such as the volleyball stadium) or sold and moved to other countries (such as the basketball court, bought by Brazil ahead of their 2016 Olympics).
This is in a city of over 6 million people and a country of over 62 million, so there needs to be in depth analysis about how these stadiums won’t simply become redundant and empty shells in the future.
Big Data will have a key role to play in this. We have seen big international matches being played in Qatar already in an effort to identify any problems and more importantly to acquire data to help with the design of these stadiums in 2022.
One thing remains clear regarding the World Cup in Qatar, which is that it will pose hurdles
to the organizers, but most importantly will create significant challenges to the players involved. Through the use of technology it will be possible to soften the blow that this may have, but with the amount of money available to look at these technologies, we may see the World Cup that has technology benefits spreading well beyond its 2022 start date.