Australian Open highlights absurdity of the notion of a summer World Cup in Qatar
The oppressive heat in Melbourne have only served to highlight the folly of the concept of a summer World Cup in the sun-drenched Arab state.
Andy Murray has described the conditions that he and his fellow tennis stars are currently playing in at the Australian Open as “inhumane” and has spoken of his genuine fears that somebody could suffer a heart attack.
The temperatures in Melbourne have been north of 40 degrees and puts into sharp perspective the decision-making at FIFA to suggest initially that the 2022 World Cup could be staged during the traditional summer months. Not for the first time it must be said.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Arab State would be the host for the World Cup in eight years time. While infrastructure is a concern, the lavish finances in the region could rectify that particular issue.
Religious issues were also rightly highlighted as another obstacle, but the glaring concern, if you pardon the expression, was the summer heat. The average daily temperature in Doha is 42 degrees, similar to what is crippling those battling it out in Australia at the moment, while it can reach just under 50 on any given day.
The Olympic Movement Medical Code states: “In each sports discipline, minimal safety requirements should be defined and applied with a view to protecting the health of the participants and the public during training and competition. Depending on the sport and the level of competition, specific rules should be adopted regarding sports venues [and] safe environmental conditions.”
This is borne is mind by all sporting organisations, who now abide by this code and have comprehensive management strategies in place. This approach to safety in sport is at the heart of the discussion about the scheduling of Qatar’s World Cup.
Just last week, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told French radio that the showpiece event in Western Asia will now take place between “November 15 and January 15”. A wise decision, which often seem in short supply, given that the average temperatures in the region in December are half of what they are in the summer. Official confirmation of the deferral however is yet to arrive.
Perhaps the bigwigs were never going to press ahead with football action in July, but any such opinions were kept private until now.
It wasn’t just player welfare that was raised when Qatar was awarded the honour of hosting the 20th World Cup, but also travelling fans not used to such extreme climate conditions, though artificial clouds and other advanced technological remedies were put forward. For a country that overtook Luxembourg three years ago as the richest country in the world per capita, finances do not come into the equation.
FIFA’s decision, or impending decision, to row back and decide to the football calendar has naturally been hit with scepticism, and stinging criticism in some quarters.
Competitors for the World Cup bid have argued that it will impact their own competitions and that if they had known the tournament could have been moved to winter they would not have entered the running.
If the tournament was to head into January 2023 it would clash with the Africa Cup of Nations, which is already scheduled for that time.
And it would of course impact the European football seasons, with England particularly affected given the absence of a winter break in the calendar and the Champions League will also have to be re-jigged. The Winter Olympics too could face logistical issues.
FIFA has created a logistical mess for itself, but with more than 3,000 days until the tournament gets underway, one would hope that the organisation has enough time to iron the problems out.
Meanwhile in Australia, it's not only mad dogs and Englishmen that are out in the mid-day sun.