FIFA inspectors had their first look Wednesday at plans by Qatar for a high-speed rail network, 50-million passenger airport and proposed satellite city that will be home to 200,000 people and scores of hotels as the country bids to host the 2022 World Cup.
The infrastructure projects are part of $42.9 billion US in upgrades that the tiny Middle East nation is planning whether or not it wins the World Cup. Many projects, though, are being sped up to ensure they are ready in time for the tournament.
FIFA inspectors, who are in Qatar through Thursday, toured a specially designed stadium with a solar-powered cooling system which would be installed in the 12 proposed stadiums. The cooling system is designed to keep temperatures at 27 degrees Celsius on the field and in the stands, far cooler than the 41 C average in June, July and August. It was forecast to reach 44 C on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
Qatar's cooling system is designed to continuously pump cool air into the venues, and Qatar bid committee CEO Hassan al-Thawadi has said the technology can be expanded in the coming years to ensure that fan zones and training sites are also kept cool. Al-Thawadi also promised the system would be carbon-neutral because it depends on renewable energy sources.
Inspectors also watched a local soccer match at a stadium with an older cooling system which is powered by the country's electricity grid. Temperatures at the 16,000-seat, Al Saad stadium got down to as low as 19 C during the match, according to organizers.
The inspection team include six delegates, led by Chile Football Federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls. Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organizing committee for the World Cup in South Africa, is also part of the delegation.
Qatar is the final stop on a tour of nine countries which are bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. FIFA's 24-member executive committee will choose the winners and they will be announced on Dec. 2. The other bidders for the 2022 World Cup are the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
Inspectors did not comment to reporters Wednesday and have said very little since the visit began, as is the protocol for such visits.