Dr Saud Abdul-Ghani, Professor at the College of Engineering at Qatar University, has been involved in developing cooling technology for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ since the country announced its bid for the tournament in 2009.
Dr Saud led the installment of cooling technology at the redeveloped Khalifa International Stadium, which was inaugurated in 2017. Here, he explains how the technology will work at Al Wakrah Stadium, which will be inaugurated when it hosts the Amir Cup final on 16 May.
As well as explaining how the technology has developed over the past two years, Dr Saud discusses the potential health benefits for the local population.
How will the cooling technology work in Al Wakrah Stadium?
We use the platform of the stadium to defend it against the infiltration of warm wind. This means the stadium is a barrier that is basically containing a cold bubble inside. The technology works by maintaining the cold bubble for as long as necessary in order for people to watch the game, and so the players are comfortable.
How does the cooling technology at Al Wakrah Stadium differ from Khalifa International Stadium?
Every stadium has its own unique personality, form and structure. Khalifa International Stadium is a mature stadium with an athletics track. Inherently, the stadium has a big oculus and this challenge demanded unconventional treatment.
As Khalifa is a well-established, existing stadium we couldn’t implement all the technology we wanted as we were bound by existing concrete structures and a lack of free space. We couldn’t, for example, provide under-seat cooling but we used small nozzles which deliver the exact amount of cold air required for people to enjoy the game comfortably.
At Al Wakrah Stadium, we are using an air circulation technique, which means we draw back some of the air that has been cooled already, re-cool it and then push it back to the supporters and players.
At Khalifa we were taking fresh air and pushing it to people. This is the reason the technology at Al Wakrah is much more efficient than at Khalifa. Moreover, a new line of under-seat diffusers has been developed in order to deliver the air to fans in a gentle manner.
How proud will you feel on 16 May when people experience the cooling technology at Al Wakrah Stadium for the first time?
We had a trial recently and – I shouldn’t say this – but I was so happy that I cried. We’ve worked so hard to deliver this project and I remember when the stadium was simply a small model made out of plastic. At Qatar University, we’ve spent hours and hours in the wind tunnel, hours and hours in the lab trying to optimise the opening of the roof and the height of the stadium. But now we’re delivering the cooling and it’s good to see it’s not only on paper anymore – it’s the realisation of a team effort.
What about the other Qatar 2022 stadiums?
For the other stadiums we have had the privilege of being involved in the design since day one. During every project we learn and develop the technology. I hope the country is enjoying our work and sees the benefits of it. This is a huge team effort – it’s not just engineering, we have so many people involved in the delivery, it’s a collective effort. Our cooling technology research group at Qatar University is supported by the SC and Aspire Zone Foundation, and we have strong collaboration.
What’s the potential for this technology across Qatar?
Active participation in sports and outdoor activities is one of the most important tools to produce healthy generations capable of pushing the pace of development in the country. If you go to Katara, you’ll notice the walkway in the new plaza is 100% cooled. We’re starting to develop cool walkways across the country, in a scientific way that will be environmentally-friendly and will not put any pressure on the electricity or water networks. This will be great for encouraging people to get out and walk during the summer and take full advantage of Qatar Rail and the neighborhood markets. I hope this will boost the health of the population and help the country spend less on healthcare, such as diabetes and hypertension.
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