The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar, marking the first time the tournament is hosted in the Arab world. Due to the climate in the region, heat safety will be a concern for the athletes, fans, and support staff.
Qatar is one of hottest places in the world, with seven months of the year that average a high of 90°F or above, and five of those months average a high of 100°F or above. During its hottest months, the local climates have historically averaged 106° F with highs reaching up to 122° F. For reference, heat stoke generally occurs when a human’s core body temperature reaches around 104° F. An inspection team evaluating the viability of Qatar as a host country deemed it, “high risk” due to its climate.
A number of steps have been taken to mitigate the heat for the athletes and spectators, including moving the games from the summer to the cooler November and December months for the first time in the tournament’s history. While the temperatures during these months are lower on average than the peak months of June-August, the humidity is much higher, impeding the evaporation of sweat, the body’s natural cooldown mechanism. The eight new venues, one of these being a refurbishment, will be equipped with a new type of air conditioning system to keep both the players and fans cool. It is designed to concentrate the flow of air at the field level, protecting the athletes most in harm’s way while play is ongoing and they begin to fatigue. At the very least, sluggish play and longer recovery times for the athletes could be possible due to the heat.
A sporting event of this magnitude and under these harsh conditions has not been attempted before and because of that, the quality of the spectator experience and how the climate will affect player performance remain open questions.