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Where Sports Meet Science

The action on the pitch might have been red-hot during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, but the millions of fans watching from the stands were keeping their cool – thanks to pioneering technology enabled by Qatar Foundation.

A research project backed by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) led to the development of the outdoor cooling technologies for World Cup stadiums, spearheaded by Dr. Saud Ghani, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Qatar University – also known as ‘Dr. Cool’.

Using 3D-printed stadium models, wind tunnels, and advanced software, he and his team overcame the challenge of creating a micro-climate within open-air stadiums, developing a state-of-the-art spot cooling system blowing cold air onto players through football-sized pitchside nozzles, and keeping fans comfortable through smaller diffusers under each seat.

And since their breakthrough, this technology has been used elsewhere in Qatar – from Katara plaza to a commercial greenhouse, and even cow barns.

"Science is about taking risks, and I am grateful QNRF took a risk with my futuristic proposal – and incredibly proud it has paid off in more ways than any of us imagined."

Dr. Saud Ghani

Sporting Energy

When supporters arrived for matches at one FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ stadium, they were walking across a unique and innovative way of generating solar power – the brainchild of a staff member at a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university.

Mohammad AlGammal, who works at Texas A&M University at Qatar, is the co-founder of SUNPave, one of the winners of the Challenge 22 initiative that set innovators the task of developing groundbreaking solutions and technologies that could contribute to the tournament.

And the patented walkable solar panels developed by SUNPave, and embedded in tiles. were tested in public for the first time within the ticketing areas at Al Thumama Stadium during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. The next step is for more of the panels, which capture the same amount of energy whether they are placed on the ground or on a wall, to be installed within QF’s Education City and across Qatar – and the aim being to help increase energy efficiency and sustainability in the region.

"Conventional solar panels tend to take up a lot of space. But we don’t have that problem with our tiles."

Mohammad AlGammal

The SUNPave panels trialled at Al Thumama Stadium covered an area of around 50sqm

A Clean Approach

Al Thumama Stadium was also the setting for efforts by one of QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s research centers and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) to ensure FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ fans breathed the cleanest air.

A project by the SC and Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) included installing a QEERI Air Quality Monitoring Station at the stadium to collect data to support air quality management both during and beyond the tournament.

Meanwhile, ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, QEERI partnered with Mowasalat to test eco-friendly lithium-ion batteries within the fleet of electric buses run by Qatar’s public transport company, a familiar sight as the tournament unfolded as they ferried supporters to and from matches.

QEERI’s work centered on testing the safety and reliability of the batteries, as well as assessing how to optimize their performance, and will contribute to Qatar’s future plans for environmentally friendly public transport.

"Our collaboration with QEERI will provide us with the necessary data to make sure we are making the best decisions possible to improve the air quality in and around stadiums."

Engineer Bodour Al MeerSustainability & Environment Senior Manager, SC

Preserving the Environment

Sustainability was also the focus of plans by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, QF’s Earthna Center for a Sustainable Future, and Qatar University, announced in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, for a national program to conserve and restore Qatar’s coastal ecosystems by harnessing the collective power of mangrove forests, seagrass, and coral.

The MSC Foundation – part of MSC Group, whose cruise division unveiled its new LNG-propelled, sustainable cruise ship in Doha ahead of the tournament – has signaled its intent to provide grant funding for the program, which will aim to protect and nurture Qatar’s mangrove forests, which are vital to marine biodiversity and fisheries; combat coastal erosion; and open up eco-tourism opportunities.

MSC Group’s ties with Qatar were solidified through MSC Cruises providing cruise ship accommodation for World Cup fans, and the MSC Foundation’s support for the national marine restoration program will contribute to the sustainability legacy the tournament aims to create.

"This national program is important in maintaining ecological balance and rehabilitating sensitive ecological ecosystems that have been threatened by human and industrial activities."

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Faleh bin Nasser bin Ahmed bin Ali Al ThaniMinister of Environment and Climate Change

Presented to the World

World Cup-inspired research from within HBKU was presented on the global stage in 2022 – examining Qatar’s commitment to building sustainable FIFA World Cup™ stadiums, and providing new insights into what motivates volunteers and whether cultural factors influence the spirit of volunteerism in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The studies by faculty and students at HBKU’s College of Science and Engineering (CSE) were discussed at EDSI 2022, the annual conference of the European Decision Science Institute; while a CSE research group concentrating on the sustainable built environment also launched a study into mega-events in the region – including the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – and the resilience of the urban infrastructure needed to ensure their success, from transport to the impact of climate change on cities. Their findings are intended to help shape future policymaking in this area.

And in March, HBKU entered into a collaboration with the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) designed to enhance the role of education in promoting sport and its values, and the contribution sport makes to tackling social issues.

"It will further enrich local research and innovation capability to support Qatar in its emerging role as a major international sporting hub."

Dr. Richard O’KennedyVice President for Research, HBKU, on the collaboration with ICSS

Exploring Football

Across the years leading up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, a research center within QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) has delved into what the tournament means for Qatar – and its findings were unveiled as the sporting showpiece drew near.

Publications launched by the university’s Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) included Football in the Middle East: State, Society, and the Beautiful Game, which explored the tournament’s influence on migration and labor reform, and media misrepresentation of Qatar’s national football team, described by one author as “a mirror to the society that Qatar is today”.

And Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup: Politics, Controversy, Change provided fresh analysis on the sociopolitical significance of the tournament being held in the Middle East for the first time, as well as Qatar’s leveraging of “sports diplomacy”.

Both books emerged from a multi-year CIRS initiative to produce original research on sport and society in Qatar, examining how the nation is now competing with ‘traditional’ global sporting centers while enhancing its international profile.

"Qatar is a pioneer – the changes that have taken place are unprecedented in the region."

Dr Danyel ReicheVisiting Research Fellow, GU-Q, and co-author of Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup: Politics, Controversy, Change

Sporting Innovation

Visitors heading to Qatar for football’s biggest celebration had the chance to personalize their travel plans – and gain a true cultural experience – through a venture supported by QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP).

Jordan-based online platform ViaVii provided a hyper-personalized service allowing users to explore and book travel experiences in Qatar that they could adjust at any time – including cooking traditional Qatari food, heritage walking tours, and desert camping – and also connect with Qatari residents to add an extra flavor to their stay. It was backed by QSTP’s Tech Venture Fund, which provides seed investment to innovative local startups and also looks to draw international innovators to the region.

QSTP also provided support to sports-focused entrepreneurs such as the team behind sKora, a sportstech startup that uses Artificial Intelligence technology to provide career advice to aspiring footballers and recommended a pathway they can follow, helping to unearth potential future stars; and Applab, which has partnered with Qatar Stars League to drive forward its digitalization goals.

"Using our platform, customized AI-driven pathways are recommended for each player depending on their own skillset, traits, and situation, away from biased views and opinions."

Adel SaadCEO of sKora

3,500 travel experiences were offered to visitors to Qatar through ViaVii

The Road to Sustainability

The transformation that Qatar has seen in the decade leading up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ will have benefits that last long beyond the tournament’s final whistle. One of them is something most people will experience every day – and it is thanks to QF-funded, QF-driven research.

Qatar now has roads that, as well as being wider and better connected, are also stronger and more sustainable, due to research supported by QNRF and conducted by a QF partner university that has led to advanced standards for pavement construction being developed for the nation.

QNRF grants have enabled projects headed by road materials and construction expert Dr. Eyad Masad, Professor in Texas A&M University at Qatar’s Mechanical Engineering Program, to make a vital contribution to new technologies, methods, and standards for designing road materials in Qatar.

It means Qatar’s highways can take more traffic, the construction process uses recycled road materials and less energy and fuel, money is saved through better road performance – and Qatar is reaching its destination of having a world-class road network.

"This work is testament to the far and wide benefits that government-industry-academic cooperation can bring."

Engineer Ahmad Ali Al AnsariTechnical Office Manager, Ashghal

8,500km of new roads have been built in Qatar over the last decade – and some are using up to 20 per cent recycled materials