Has the buzz worn off yet from Qatar’s historic winning bid for the 2022 World Cup? No? Well great – it should last for awhile, but now comes the hard part – delivering on everything that was promised. In many ways, Qatar promised the moon, and technology was certainly a focal piece of the bid. So what must now get done to truly deliver amazing in terms of technology?
This is probably the piece getting the most attention in terms of the technical bid. Is it really possible to create state-of-the-art open-air stadiums that remain a cool and comfortable 27 degrees when it is 50 degrees out? I have no clue, but it better be possible otherwise the Qatar games will be remembered as the games of heat stroke. Anyone that has lived through a summer in Qatar knows it is brutal and even a 10 meter walk to your car can leave you drenched and winded. Can you imagine if you are running up and down a soccer field for 90 minutes? I don’t care how good of an athlete you are, that is not physically possible. And can these really be carbon neutral stadiums? If not, I can only imagine the carbon footprint left behind by all this cooling.
Keeping the fans cool and entertained is also a big technological challenge. Even if the stadiums are cool, what will the fans do in their free time? How will they get between matches without suffering? Well it seems as though virtual indoor cities that are connected by air conditioned trains will be needed around each of the stadiums (some of which are planned in “cities” that don’t even exist yet). People will need indoor places to eat, activities, lounges, etc. I am picturing some indoor Disney Worlds, which may be what it takes to convince fans to travel to Qatar in the summer.
Ultra High Speed Connections
Perhaps the most difficult challenge – but also the one that will benefit people living in Qatar the most – is the need to develop an ultrahigh speed internet here, with multiple points of access (i.e. not just a submarine cable that could be cut!). Qatar basically promised to be just as connected as countries like Japan and Korea, which is ambitious to say the least. The good news is that Qatar is small, so building a network should be manageable. In terms of new points of connection, ictQATAR’s announcement that they plan to launch a satellite is a good step, and hopefully more major cables will be explored. This is important for fans that visit Qatar of course, but even more important for broadcasting the games to the world. We all remember the broadcast issues with the last World Cup – Qatar must make sure this doesn’t happen for their games.
Crowd Control and Management
One of the selling points of Qatar’s bid was that it was compact – most stadiums will be less than 30 minutes apart. This will make it easier for fans and players to get to/from matches. But, this also means much more congestion. Previous World Cups have been spread out over much larger geographic distances, meaning no one city was slammed with people. Well for Qatar, Doha will be slammed. Technology will need to play a key role in managing crowd movements, keeping any public transport running smoothly (at cool temperatures!) and keeping traffic flowing. This is going to require sophisticated sensors and monitoring devices– The Internet of Things will be in Qatar! And of course, security personnel will need to use technology to help protect the large crowds – expect a lot of surveillance cameras!
Is all if this doable? It will be a challenge, but I remind everyone that almost no one thought Qatar would win the rights to host the World Cup when they first announced plans to bid. I don’t think anyone should bet against Qatar hosting the most technologically advanced World Cup – and I am very excited about what the coming boom in ICT investment means for people living here. Now let’s get started!