Back in 2010 when Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, a big point of contention was the stifling heat that the country routinely deals with due to its position in the Middle East. 

How would it be possible for the players and fans to withstand the extreme temperatures? Qatar’s response? We’ll air-condition the stadiums, of course. Much of the world scoffed in response to this—air conditioning solutions were pretty universally thought to be an exclusively inside thing. 

But Qatar remained resolutely confident in its abilities to pull it off. So, have they done it—are air-conditioned stadiums really a thing?  

The answer? 

The resounding answer is yes! You’ve got to hand it to Qatar on this front—the stadiums are well and truly air-conditioned. In fact, if you can believe it, some fans have even been complaining that the stadiums are too cold! 

How does it work?

When Qatar first announced they were going to be air-conditioning their stadiums, most of us unanimously thought something along the lines of ‘that can’t be possible—air-conditioning only works indoors. So, how have they managed to take technology that is designed to work indoors and make it work outdoors? 

Well, the networks of air-conditioning systems that have been constructed in all the World Cup stadiums are both complex and incredibly simple. To explain how it works in the most basic sense, first, machines called absorption chillers chill huge quantities of water. The cold water is pumped around the stadiums through pipes and cools the air. Then, a series of nozzles which are angled around the pitch shoot out the cold air to cover the entire pitch.  

Qatar didn’t forget about the spectators either—in the stands, there are smaller nozzles under the seats. According to ‘Dr Cool’ who engineered the whole thing, there is a uniform distribution of cool air throughout the pitch and stadium, plus or minus just one or two per cent. 

How do they keep the cold air in? 

This is the slightly more complicated bit. The stadiums are not enclosed—they have open-air ceilings. What’s the point of pumping out all this cold air if it’s just going to be lost to the hot Qatar day through the top of the stadium? To stop all the cold air from escaping, the stadiums have carefully designed architecture. 

Architect Chris Lee, who was on the team in charge of designing Lusail Stadium—the stadium to be used for the World Cup final—explains how it works: 

‘If you think of a stadium roof as a little bit like an aeroplane wing, you can direct the prevailing wind quite a lot by how you orientate the stadium and how you tip or dip the leading edge of the roof. So if you think of how an aeroplane wing tips up and the air rushes up and effectively jumps up on a different trajectory, that’s more or less how it’s done.’ 

What this means is that the hot Qatar air above the stadium doesn’t ingress into the roof’s opening. Thermodynamics also work to the stadiums’ advantage since cold air is heavier and hot air is lighter—so naturally, the cold air-conditioned air wants to stay in the stadium, and the hot air doesn’t want to make its way down the pitch. 

Is it efficient? 

Ok, air-conditioned stadiums—they work. But are they energy efficient? The answer seems to be yes and no, depending on how you look at it. A key element of the stadiums is their design, which is intended to be as efficient as possible. 

Hot wind infiltration is kept to a minimum by the shape of the roof. This actually facilitates cooling in the stadiums before the air-conditioning is even turned on i.e. it’s already cooler inside than it is outside. 

Another factor is the stadiums’ positioning relative to the path of the sun—the design maximises shade for the pitch and the stands. Additionally, the stadiums have been painted with pale colours in order to reflect as much sunlight as possible, preventing too much heat from being absorbed.  

Even the cold air distribution is designed with efficiency in mind. As mentioned, the cold air produced by the air-conditioning systems is pumped out through nozzles. These nozzles are angled carefully so that the air can be evenly distributed across the pitch. The speed that the air is shot out from the nozzles varies, meaning some nozzles will shoot the air further into the pitch and some closer. To pump out the air with speed, fans are used—these are solar-powered fans which help with efficiency too. 

Another key point is that the cooled air is recycled. Vents around the stadium suck in air so that it can be filtered, re-chilled, and pumped back out. This means that the stadiums aren’t continuously taking super-hot air from the outside and cooling it—instead, they’re using air that is already fairly cool and just making it colder. 

Additionally, the air-conditioning inside the stadiums can be considered ‘smart’. Unlike AC units you might have at home which pump out cold air indiscriminately, Qatar’s stadium air-conditioning only pumps out chilled air where it’s needed. In each stadium, between 200 and 300 sensors measure the temperature in different zones. If one area is already cool, no more air will be pumped out. If one section of the pitch is in the sun, more air will be directed to that section. The idea is that the entire stadium is kept at a constant temperature. 

Qatar reports that, for the most part, the machines that chill the water to be used in the air-conditioning systems aren’t actually running during the day—they chill and store enough water through the night to last throughout the day. Chilling the water during the cooler night means less energy needs to be expended. 

Still, even with all these efficiency measures, keeping seven stadiums (one does not have AC) air-conditioned in a desert can never exactly be considered an environmentally friendly endeavour. Qatar has been pretty tight-lipped about exactly how much energy its stadiums are consuming, although it’s known that at least some of the power is coming from a gigantic solar energy farm just outside of Doha.  

Learn how you can use your air-conditioning more efficiently at home or in your place of work. 

Who is ‘Dr Cool’? 

You’re likely to have heard the name ‘Dr Cool’ being thrown around recently. Dr Cool—real name, Dr Saud Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Ghani—is the brains behind the whole operation. For 13 years, he’s been plotting a cool World Cup 2022. 


Dr Cool is a professor at Qatar University, but he did his PhD at Nottingham University in the UK. He’s been engineering air-conditioning systems since the early 1990s when he worked on the air-conditioning for Ford Mondeo cars.  

What’s the temperature inside the stadiums?


The desired temperature in the stadiums is 21 °C. This is considered the optimal temperature for players and fans—not too hot or cold. However, some fans have made complaints that the stadiums are too cold at times—so perhaps the temperature isn’t always quite as ‘uniform’ as Dr Cool intended. 


The 2022 World Cup is being held during Qatar’s (and the Northern Hemisphere’s) winter. The timing of the competition was moved to be held in November–December for the first time in its history. The reason is simple—June and July (when the World Cup is usually held) routinely mean 40 °C and above temperatures in Qatar. With temperatures in Qatar hovering around the mid-20s in November and December, it means the air-conditioning only needs to cool the stadiums by a few degrees. 

Are air-conditioned stadiums the future? 

Only a few years ago, the notion of air-conditioned stadiums felt relatively dystopian. But for better or worse, Qatar has transformed a futuristic notion into reality. Will we be seeing air-conditioned stadiums popping up across Australia? Dr Cool thinks so. 

‘In the future, for the safety of players, air-conditioned stadiums will be more of the norm. If you want players to complete the game without water breaks, without any interruptions, then air-conditioning will be a necessity.’ 

Only time will tell if the rest of the world will also begin to invest in air-conditioned stadiums. But with temperatures rising across the world as a result of global warming, this certainly doesn’t seem out of the question. Last summer, various extreme weather records were broken across Australia. Onslow in Western Australia reached a scorching 50.7 °C which is the hottest temperature ever recorded in the country. In temperatures like that, playing any sport is completely out of the question. With no respite in sight from the extreme heat, air-conditioned stadiums may be the only viable solution for Australia. 


Air-conditioned stadiums—they well and truly are a thing. Despite the world’s scepticism when Qatar announced its plans to host the World Cup 2022 in air-conditioned stadiums, they totally knocked it out of the park in this regard. Whether or they can be justified in this climate-conscious era is another question, but air-conditioned stadiums popping up across the world certainly shouldn’t be ruled out. 


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