DOHA, Qatar – Qatar officials told 2022 World Cup inspectors Tuesday that the country has the technology to cool stadiums and would establish zones where alcohol could be served to international fans.
Qatar acknowledged it "has a few challenges" to overcome in its bid, but laid out ambitious plans as a FIFA inspection team arrived to tour facilities, including a specially designed stadium that would keep fans and players cool.
The FIFA inspection team includes six delegates, led by Chilean Football Federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls. Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organizing committee for the World Cup in South Africa, is also part of the delegation.
Qatar is the final stop on the tour of nine countries that are bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments. FIFA will announce the winners on Dec. 2.
Mayne-Nichols praised Qatar's hospitality and vowed that inspectors would take "an objective" look at its bid and hoped to get all the information needed in the three-day visit.
Qatar will show inspectors a $4 billion plan to build nine stadiums and renovate three others, all with the new solar-powered cooling system. Some of the $42.9 billion in infrastructure upgrades include a new airport, metro system, high-speed rail network and 40,000 more hotel rooms.
Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar 2022 Bid and son of the country's ruler, called the visit "an important milestone in the journey of our bid and a seminal moment in the sport of football throughout the region."
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to present our bid, in all its detail and ambition, to football's governing body," he said in a statement.
Inspectors will tour the solar-powered stadium that is expected to keep temperatures at 81 degrees on the field and in the stands, far cooler than the 106-degree average in June, July and August. It reached 112 degrees on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Qatar's solar-powered system is designed to pump cool air into the venues, and Qatar bid committee CEO Hassan al-Thawadi has said the technology can be expanded to ensure that fan zones and training sites are kept cool.
The country's strict restrictions on alcohol have emerged as a hurdle in the World Cup bid from the tiny Middle East nation. Alcohol is served only in four- and five-star hotels.
Nasser al-Khater, a spokesman for the bid committee, said "it wouldn't be a problem" because organizers will have specially designated zones for drinking that could include fan zones.
Al-Khater was less forthcoming about the issue of visas, a veiled reference to Israel, which has no diplomatic relations with Qatar. He said Qatar would "do its utmost to make the country accessible to all fans."
But he said it was up to the Ministry of Interior to decide whether any visa policies would be changed for the World Cup.
Qatar, which ended low-level contacts with Israel last year, has said that any team that qualifies would be welcome. FIFA would require Qatar to allow any Israeli delegate to attend its congress and opening ceremony.
Most analysts consider the desert nation of 1.3 million a longshot in a group of bidders containing the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan, which have hosted either a World Cup or an Olympics in the past. But Qatar is one of the richest of the bidders — it has the world's second highest per capita income — and has spared no expense in showcasing its ambitions.