ZURICH: Qatar on Thursday shrugged off fears of searing summer heat to become the first Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim country to be awarded the right to stage football’s World Cup.
The young bid team successfully swayed FIFA’s ageing grandees with promises of a glitzy, compact and carbon-neutral World Cup that will be held in solar-powered stadiums where temperatures would be maintained at a comfortable 27 degrees Celsius with the help of novel cooling technology.
"We are offering FIFA a historic opportunity to expand the frontiers of the World Cup," Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad al-Thani said in his final pitch to the 22 strong executive committee of world football’s governing body on Wednesday.
A FIFA technical committee inspection report released earlier this month dubbed Qatar a potential "health risk" for players and spectators because of temperatures in June and July that hover around the 50 degree Celsius mark.
Qatar, a small strip of land that juts out into the Gulf, has a population of just over 1.5 million inhabitants, with little perceived football tradition.
However, the bid touted its strong Middle Eastern flavor despite the fact that the country’s attempt to host the 2016 Olympics on the same platform had ended in failure.
Qatar 2022 bid chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi promised to harness huge growth in the region’s football-inspired young population, as well as its lucrative television viewing opportunities in a time zone in between east and west.
Qatar estimates that it stands at the middle of a television market of up to 3.2 billion television viewers in Europe, Africa as well as Asia.
"The commercial opportunities open to the global football family are massive," said Al-Thawadi.
He has promised that regional governments as well as public and private sectors will be engaged in the development of World Cup infrastructure, public transportation and telecommunications.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who visited Qatar in April, had also spoken in favor of a first ever World Cup in the region.
"The Arabic world deserves a World Cup. They have 22 countries and have not had any opportunity to organize the tournament," he said.
"When I was first in Qatar there were 400,000 people here and now there are 1.6 million.
"In terms of infrastructure, when you are able to organize the Asian Games (in 2006) with more than 30 events for men and women, then that is not in question."