Are Qatar’s World Cup Stadiums the Future of Sports in a Warming World?
Sure, Ghani said.
In 2010, Qatar won the right to host this year’s tournament, for reasons that have to do with corruption more than thermal dynamics.
In 2015, acknowledging that scorching temperatures, in and out of stadiums, could be both miserable and dangerous, FIFA moved the competition from its traditional summer dates to late fall. The change may have made Ghani’s mission easier, with daytime temperatures in the 80s and 90s instead of 110 or higher, but he insisted that it did not matter.
These eight stadiums of various sizes and designs were not just for the World Cup. One will be dismantled, but seven will be used, year-round: for big events, for club teams, for university athletics, maybe even as part of a bid for the Olympics. (Such promises for everyday uses can go unfulfilled, as the ghost venues of past Games attest.)
In Qatar, the heat for nine months of the year is almost unbearable, Ghani said. And it is not going to get better.
A Brief Guide to the 2022 World Cup
What is the World Cup? The quadrennial event pits the best national soccer teams against each other for the title of world champion. Here’s a primer to the 2022 men’s tournament:
“Is it smart from a sustainability standpoint to have eight stadiums that you can only use three months of the year?” he asked. “Of course not. So you need air-conditioning to make them viable long-term.”
There are costs, of course, both financial and environmental, and Ghani and Qatari officials will not disclose them. Some estimates have the eight stadiums costing a total of $6.5 billion, a price that does not include the human cost in lives lost and chronic health problems for the low-paid migrant workers who built them.
Oil and natural gas have made Qatar rich over the past half-century, and the World Cup is part of a coming-out spending spree. Skyscrapers, malls, luxury hotels and apartment buildings, a new airport and subway network — all drenched in air-conditioning, of course — have sprouted, Oz-like, improbably in this place.