FIFA not worried about Qatar heat

Updated: December 6, 2010, 12:39 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- FIFA is not considering changing the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite fears the intense heat poses a serious health risk if the tournament is played in summer.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said Monday that he accepts "worries about the heat are legitimate" but adds that the intention remains "to play this World Cup in June."

Before the World Cup vote, FIFA's technical report labeled Qatar's heat a "potential health risk."

Despite average summer temperatures from 105-115 degrees, Valcke says this will "never be at the detriment of the players or fans, or anybody."

Valcke says Qatar has huge financial means to ensure a state-of-the art cooling system in stadiums and training grounds.

Ruled by the Al Thani family, Qatar has committed $42.9 billion for infrastructure upgrades and $4 billion to build nine stadiums and renovate three others. All the stadiums plan to keep temperatures at about 81 degrees.

"The players will play in conditions -- whether in terms of training or in the stadiums -- that are normal conditions," Valcke said.

Valcke defended the decision to favor new countries and snub traditional football strongholds such as England and Spain. Qatar's team has never before qualified for the World Cup.

"The Middle East is also part of the football family, and why shouldn't it go to them? Some people say these are brave decisions, others say they are decisions based on the principle of petro dollars," Valcke said. "Perhaps certain [people were critical] in the media or elsewhere. But in terms of the football fan, most fans said, 'It's normal, it's good and it shows that football is open to the whole world."

The BBC aired allegations of corruption in FIFA on its flagship documentary program "Panorama" last week ahead of the vote.

"The stories that came out last week are stories that date back to 1997 [and] were judged by a Swiss tribunal," Valcke said. "After a while, all this is reheated and should be part of the History Channel.

"I personally watched the BBC 'Panorama' program and so I missed the Real-Barcelona game, which I had to watch a recording of afterward. I would have been better off watching Real-Barca."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press