Qatar would not oppose winter World Cup, official says
DOHA (Reuters) -- Qatar would obey a FIFA order to host a winter World Cup but no discussions have taken place on switching the 2022 soccer tournament from the summer, a top bid official said on Monday.
"Currently our plans are to host the World Cup during the summer," Hassan al-Thawadi, general-secretary of Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told a conference in Doha.
"If FIFA, the international football community, ask for Qatar to host the World Cup in the winter then we won't be fighting the football community. As of yet, no such discussions have been put in place."
Qatar, where summer temperatures top 45 degrees Celsius, was the surprise winner of a December FIFA vote to choose the 2022 host country.
The Gulf state says it will build solar-powered, air-conditioned stadiums to overcome the sweltering heat, although the technology remains unproven in a full-size stadium.
A winter World Cup would come mid-season in Europe and the continent's leagues are likely to fiercely resist such a move.
Whatever the timing, Thawadi estimates 800,000 foreign fans will visit Qatar during the tournament.
"This World Cup will bridge a gap between East and West," said Thawadi, predicting the tournament would accelerate the growth of the country's private sector.
State-controlled companies dominate the Doha stock exchange and Qatar's vast wealth is based on liquefied natural gas exports.
Since the FIFA vote, the long-standing leaders of Egypt, Libya and Algeria have been ousted, more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria during eight months of unrest and Bahrain's Sunni rulers have conducted a deadly crackdown on its Shia majority.
With 11 years until Qatar hosts the World Cup, the Middle East's political landscape could change dramatically, but Thawadi played down concerns.
"We've seen economic turmoil throughout the world, we've seen riots in England, we've seen significant issues occur in the EU," he said.
"The world is changing. We have recognised that in our bid...you have to be ready with contingency plans, but in the end tsunamis happen, flooding happens, earthquakes happen, economic turmoil and political turmoil happen. Does that mean the world is going to stand still? No, it should always continue."
This month, Doha's Al Sadd won the Asian Champions League, defeating South Korea's Jeonbuk Motors on penalties, and Thawadi was bullish on Qatar's soccer prospects.
"Our goal is to qualify (for the World Cup) before 2022," he said. "By 2022 we will have a very good team.
"You will see Qatari players in La Liga and the Premier League. Also, you will find young players from Europe looking to come to the Middle East to play in our leagues here."