London: Qatar`s size, rather than its fierce summer heat or the fact it is an Islamic country, could rule it out of contention to host the World Cup in 2022, the head of FIFA`s inspection team hinted.
Qatar would be the smallest host country since Uruguay staged the inaugural tournament in 1930 but has stressed the advantages of a compact World Cup, with none of the 12 stadiums more than an hour`s travelling time from one another.
However, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the head of FIFA`s six-man inspection team, who have spent three days in the tiny Gulf State, said hosting the event in Qatar "would pose a number of logistical challenges".
He added: "From an organisational point of view, Qatar has the potential to host an international sporting event such as the FIFA World Cup."
"So far we have only had one such tournament with a similar (compact) concept and that was the first World Cup ever staged in Uruguay in 1930.”
"Then there were only 13 teams playing all their matches in two stadiums in the same city. That easily worked out 80 years ago but the scope of the event, as we all know, has changed dramatically.”
"Nowadays we have 32 teams and the last edition in South Africa had more than 80,000 accredited people including 15,000 media and hundreds of thousands of football fans travelling to the host country.”
"Currently, there is not enough accommodation and transportation but you assured us you are prepared to change this and lots of development plans are underway."
In response, bid chairman Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, said the country would meet every challenge to host a successful finals.
"We truly believe now is the time. We invite 12 years of preparation, we want to take that on.”
"We want to prove to the world that the Middle East, just like Africa, can be successful at hosting the World`s greatest tournament. Choosing Qatar is not a risky decision it is a bold decision, it is one you will not, absolutely not, regret."
Qatar has strongly advocated that its small size -- it has a population of just 1.6 million on its 11,000 square km -- was a major selling point for a compact World Cup.
It has harnessed innovative solar powered technology to cool stadiums to about 27 Celsius while the temperature outside could be about 40C or higher, and it has stressed that it would tolerate overseas fans drinking alcohol in designated zones.
The Qatari bidders also showed impressive models of all 12 stadiums that would host matches to the inspectors during their visit.
All the stadiums, with evocative names like The Arabian Fort, Sea Urchin and The Seashell, would use carbon-free solar-powered cooling systems.
They would be partly dismantled after the finals, with the extra seating shipped to developing nations who could reconstruct them as smaller stadiums for their own use.
Qatar`s bid is one of nine for the 2022 finals but their main opposition will come mainly from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
It is almost certain that one of the four European bids from England, Russia, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands will win the right to stage the 2018 World Cup, meaning a country from outside Europe will stage the 2022 finals.
FIFA will announce the venues for 2018 and 2022 in Zurich on Dec. 2.