BERLIN (Reuters) - Qatar remained adamant it would host the 2022 soccer World Cup despite a FIFA Executive Committee member suggesting on Monday that the tournament would have to move because of scorching temperatures.
“The only question now is when, not if,” Qatar 2022 communications director Nasser Al Khater said in a statement.
“Summer or winter, we will be ready.”
Theo Zwanziger, the former German soccer association (DFB) chief who now sits on the executive committee of world soccer’s governing body, had said earlier that he felt the tournament would have to be held elsewhere.
“I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar,” he told Sport Bild. “Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.”
FIFA awarded the tournament to the tiny Middle Eastern country in a controversial decision in 2010, with the understanding that it would be held in the summer despite the searing heat.
Although oil and gas-rich Qatar has insisted that timetable is viable thanks to cooling technologies being developed for stadiums, training areas and fan zones, there is still widespread concern over the health of players and visiting fans.
“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said.
“Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor.
“That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”
FIFA officials, contacted by Reuters, said Zwanziger was not giving the view of the all powerful Executive Committee.
“He is expressing a personal opinion and he explicitly says so,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said. “We will not comment on a personal opinion.”
Qatar organizers said they have already proved that cooling technologies that would be used at the World Cup work.
“We have proven that a FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the summer is possible with state-of-the-art cooling technology,” said Al Khater.
“We have demonstrated that our cooling works in outdoor areas beyond stadiums. This summer we welcomed fans in Doha to an open-air Brazil 2014 Fan Zone with temperatures cooled to a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius.
“The evolution of environmentally-friendly cooling technologies is an important legacy for our nation, region and for countries with similar climates - promising to expand the reach of hosting major sporting events to countries where it was never thought possible before.”
Despite the resources being thrown at high-tech cooling techniques, skepticism about Qatar’s ability to stage a World Cup in the summer — when temperatures can soar into the mid 40s Celsius — has not gone away.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in May that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a ‘mistake’ and the tournament would probably have to be held in the European winter.
“The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar,” he said.
FIFA is looking at the option of shifting the tournament to January/February 2022 or November/December 2022 - both of which would be unpopular because of disruption to the domestic seasons in Europe and around the world.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa chaired a meeting to discuss the matter earlier this month.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann. Editing by Patrick Johnston/Alan Baldwin