Saudi Sanada Al Somad, 31, is used to the high temperatures in his country, whose thermometers can reach 43ºC in the summer. It wouldn’t be a problem for him to face similar averages in Qatar. But to keep up with the World Cup games, he had to take some blouses out of his closet.
“It’s very cold in here. In an afternoon game, it’s more pleasant. But when night starts to fall, it gets colder, mainly because it gets dark early, at 5 pm”, says the fan, while watching the match between Poland and Arabia Arabia, for Group C, at the Education City stadium, in Doha.
He wasn’t the only one dressed in a tank top in the arena stands. A compatriot of his, Erick Noturi, 23, was also protected from the strong breeze that came from the air conditioning outlets installed under all the rows of the stadium. “Outside I’ll take it off, but inside and on the subway, I always use it,” he says. “It’s almost all the time like this, cold and hot, cold and hot.”
When Qatar announced its candidacy to host the World Cup, in addition to asking for the tournament to be moved to the end of the year, a period in which temperatures are lower than the 50ºC recorded, on average, in the middle of the year, the country it also assured that it would equip its stadiums and public places with a powerful air conditioning system.
The technology was developed together with the University of Qatar — in the same complex as the Education City stadium. According to the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy, the apparatus is powered by solar energy to maintain fans that draw in outside air and cool it.
The goal is to leave the spaces where the fans, players and the field are located with average temperatures of 18ºC to 24ºC. Thus, it is not uncommon to find people wearing blouses or warm clothes, even in more restricted places, such as the media center, where journalists from all over the world work.
At the end of the duel between Poland and Arabia, around 6 pm, already under the Doha night, the thermometers registered 29ºC in the external area of the stadium.
The use of the cooling technique was designed by Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, a professor of mechanical engineering at the teaching institution and nicknamed Doctor Cool, a pun, as the word “cool” means both “cool” and “cool”.
“We’re not just cooling the air, we’re cleaning it,” explains Ghani. “The pre-cooled air enters through louvers built into the stands and large gaps along the pitch. Using air circulation technique, the cooled air is pulled back in, cooled again, filtered and pushed to where it’s needed.”
The professor was invited to join the Qatar-2022 project in 2009, when the country, rich due to its natural gas and oil reserves, was still applying to host the World Cup.
As soon as it was announced as host, Qatar began to receive several questions, especially for its history of disrespect for human rights. But the climate issue was also of concern to the international football community.
“Most countries would generally present their stadiums as a design idea and not as a technology. We present our stadiums in a new way”, says the professor on how he convinced the federations that it was possible to play in Qatar.
According to him, the cooling technology is 40% more sustainable than existing techniques, as it allows the arenas to only need to be cooled two hours before an event, reducing energy consumption compared to other technologies.
Qatar is the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the World Bank. It emits almost three times more than the United States and almost six times more than China.
The ranking, however, is questioned by Qataris, as the huge exports of liquefied natural gas from Qatar are consumed in various parts of the world. The World Bank’s methodology, then, would charge these emissions to the country, not to those who use the fuel.
About 60% of the electricity used by the nation is used for refrigeration. And, as the country’s intention with the World Cup is to attract not only more tourists, but also residents, the tendency is for this consumption to increase in the coming years.
Currently, the local population is 2.7 million inhabitants, of which only 380,000 are Qataris and the remaining migrants, many of whom worked in the construction of the arenas.
Of the eight World Cup stadiums, only Khalifa already existed and underwent renovations to host the World Cup. Therefore, it also needed an adaptation to implement the Doctor Cool system.
Arena 974 is the only one that does not have this air system as it is located near the sea and already receives a natural breeze. The stadium was the stage for the debut of the Portuguese national team, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, against Ghana, last Thursday (24).
The report accompanied the match on site and, in fact, the stadium has a pleasant temperature, especially at night, time of the duel.
Stadiums are not the only spaces that have a cooling system in Qatar.
Fans equipped with humid air cool the narrow streets of Souq Waqif, Doha’s traditional open-air market, for example. The same system is also found on the walkways of the Galeries Lafayette open-air shopping mall, and in train and subway stations.
At some times, the power even makes passengers feel cold instead of relief from the heat. Interestingly, one of the most popular advertisements on the platforms is precisely that of a brand of medicine against respiratory allergies.
It’s almost a married sale.