Updated with statement from Supreme Council for Delivery & Legacy
A senior FIFA official made waves this afternoon after forecasting that Qatar would lose hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup because of its searing summer heat.
Speaking to German tabloid Bild, FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said:
“I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar. Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.”
The comments are the latest remarks made in a long drawn-out debate about whether Qatar could realistically host the football tournament in June/July, when temperatures regularly exceed 45C (113F).
FIFA is currently considering whether to move the games to the cooler winter months, but that proposal been controversial because it presents scheduling conflicts for other sports leagues.
Qatar’s bid team has said it is ready to host the games in the winter or the summer. It has been developing cooling technology to be used in the stadiums, fan and training zones and other areas, but Zwanziger said that was not enough.
Reuters reports him as saying:
“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there. 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.”
For its part, the world’s governing football body said today that Zwanziger was simply expressing his personal opinion, and FIFA does not comment on such matters.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy also weighed in. In a statement, the SCDL’s executive director of communications and marketing Nasser Al Khater said:
“Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, despite comments of FIFA Executive Committee member Dr. Zwanziger, which reflect his personal opinion and not that of FIFA. The only question now is WHEN, not IF.
Summer or winter, we will be ready. We have proven that a FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the summer is possible with state-of-the-art cooling technology. 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.”
Previously, other senior FIFA officials have expressed support for the idea of a winter World Cup.
Earlier this year, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said the games would not be held in June or July due to the heat, but instead moved to sometime between November and January.
And though FIFA President Sepp Blatter previously called awarding hosting rights to Qatar a “mistake,” he spoke encouragingly last week after meeting with the Emir.
Referring to ongoing criticism of Qatar over labor rights abuses, Blatter said in a statement:
“Qatar is working hard to take advantage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a vehicle for social development that will contribute to the promotion of football in the region.”
A final decision about which months the 2022 tournament will be held is expected in February 2015.
Also next year, FIFA’s ethics committee is expected to announce sanctions on individuals who are found guilty of bribery or corruption related to Qatar’s 2022 and Russia’s 2018 bids.
The judge leading the investigation, however, said this week that the findings of the probe would not include calls for a re-vote of either bid.