All in the timing: heat turned up on Qatar 2022

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That the upcoming 2022 Qatar World Cup is controversial goes without saying. The method by which Qatar won the bid and its treatment of migrant workers in particular have raised troubling questions. It seems, however, that the sheer popularity of the event will trump all ethical concerns in determining its success: in the recent World Travel Market 2014 Industry Report, roughly two-thirds of the travel industry believes that tourists will flock to the competition in eight years’ time. 

The biggest challenge to the success of the World Cup remains the timing of the competition. During the bidding process, Qatar promised that its research into stadium-cooling techniques would prove fruitful come 2022, and the tournament could go ahead during the traditional summer months, despite an average daily high June temperature of forty one degrees Celsius. This flew in the face of FIFA’s own technical report, which warned that the summer period would be too warm to host an international event such as this; the high temperatures have also partly been responsible for the deaths of many migrant workers.

FIFA have announced that they are considering two options for the timing of the World Cup — January/February or November/December — after Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, was forced to investigate alternatives following outcries from UEFA, top European clubs, and leading national leagues. Moreover, one of the biggest concerns is that the revised World Cup will clash directly with the Winter Olympics. The dates for this tournament have not been finalised; however, with the Sochi Olympics running from 7th-23rd February there is a strong chance of a clash between the tournaments. This is despite Blatter promising his counterpart at the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, that no such thing would happen. The other option being considered would also clash with club fixtures, such as the Champions’ League and all European football leagues.

The two options revealed do not include the proposed compromise offered by the Euro- pean Club Association: April/ May 2022. This would offer minimal disruption to the current footballing calendar, with leagues starting two weeks earlier than usual, more midweek games, and fewer international breaks. FIFA argued that this would not avoid health and safety issues related to the heat, but the average temperature during this time period, thirty-two degrees Celsius, is not too far off the temperatures witnessed in Brazil earlier this year. 

The most worrying factor against this proposal would be that it would clash with the start of Ramadan on the third of April, ending on the second of May. As Sharia law is the main source of legislation in Qatar, eating and drinking in public is illegal during this month, making the prospect of hundreds of thousands of rowdy football fans gathering in the country for the month unappealing to say the least. 

The taskforce convening on this issue will make its recommendation by March 2015. What is clear by now is that the best possible option — not holding the World Cup in Qatar at all — is off the table, barring conclusive, irrefutable proof that the bid was bought and paid for by the Qatari bid team. 

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