Qatar’s first test of cooling tech at open-air fan zone passes muster

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

Those heading to the newly opened Brazil 2014 FIFA Fan Zone at Katara may want to grab a sweater before tuning into the matches.

Despite the hot, humid weather last night and the open-air atmosphere, temperatures at the fan zone stayed in the cool mid-20Cs.

“It’s great,” said local Syrian resident Shireen Khalil, who attended the match along with her family. “I thought that it wouldn’t work well, but I’m surprised. And really cold.”

Critics abroad have expressed skepticism about Qatar’s pledge to use cooling technology during the 2022 World Cup, which falls during the sweltering summer months.

FIFA Brazil Fan Zone

Chantelle D'mello

Four cooling columns were set up near the stands yesterday during a live screening of the Brazil vs. Chile match.

In a statement, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) said that various strategies were being employed to keep the seated areas cool, including “high level jet nozzles” and cooling mists.

However, temperatures in the periphery of the fan zone, especially in areas near the entrance and whatever was not enclosed by the four pillars, were noticeably warmer.

Speaking to Doha News yesterday, SCDL spokesman Nasser Al Khater said:

“We’re excited and pleased with the turnout. We have always promised a working cooling system and we have delivered. Going forward, we’re going to use the lessons learned to better our work. Registration was smooth, and we’ve seen a lot of social media and online interaction.”

He added that the cooling technology was also being tested at the Aspire Fan Zone that has been set up for Aspire staff to watch the 2014 games.

Logistics

Despite a big publicity push – and being one of the only free venues to watch World Cup match screenings in Qatar – the 1,500-person capacity fan zone opened to less than a full house last night. According to Al Khater, the beginning of Ramadan was a contributing factor.

However, fans who did turn up enjoyed a large seating area with bleachers, couches and giant pillows.

Pre-registration to attend the event was originally encouraged, and only those who did so online and printed out parking passes were allowed to park in the designated areas outside the fan zone.

But now, due to problems with the online system, registration is taking place at the nearby Doha Exhibition Center on the day of each match. Parking is available at the DEC, and fans will be taken to the match screenings in a shuttle.

The buses will run continuously while the fan zone is open. The zone’s hours vary, depending on the World Cup match schedule:

  • Sunday, June 29: 5pm to 2am
  • Monday, June 30: 5pm to 2am
  • Tuesday, July 1: 5pm to 2am
  • Friday, July 4: 5pm to 2am
  • Saturday, July 5: 5pm to 2am
  • Tuesday, July 8: 9pm to 2am
  • Wednesday, July 9: 9pm to 2am
  • Saturday, July 12: 9pm to 2am
  • Sunday, July 13: 7pm to 1am

Upon entering the fan zone, fans are registered along with their email addresses, and are issued wristbands.

In the zone, the wristbands are used to identify fans, and any pictures taken within the zone, goals scored at the various games, or caricatures drawn, are supposed to be sent to the fan’s registered email address.

Passes are valid for one day only, but can cover more than one game on that day. Fans looking to score last-minute tickets to the games can only do so on the day of the matches.

The ticketing booths at the Exhibition Center will open an hour prior to the opening of the zone, according to PR Manager Jawaher Al-Khuzaei.

Offerings

The zone features three screens, each dedicated to a different part of the game. The main screen directly in front of the seating area screened the game, while elongated screens to the sides kept track of each side’s score, fouls, and showcased other relevant facts.

Sound and lighting worked in tandem with the game. A yellow card meant that the stadium was bathed in yellow light and dramatic music, highlighting fans’ reactions.

Other attractions include a virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, a 11-on-11 foosball table commissioned by KIA, and pressure and accuracy sensors to measure the strength and direction of a player’s kick at various dedicated game stalls.

FIFA Brazil Fan Zone

Chantelle D'mello

The zone also features a kids’ play zone, a caricature artist, face-painting stalls and an official FIFA-branded merchandise store, which sold World Cup-related items.

Jugglers and performers in costume roamed the zone prior to the match, entertaining the crowd.

Meanwhile, good and beverage stalls on both sides of the zone sold sandwiches, hot dogs, chips and beverages for between QR10 to QR25.

The opening of the fan zone saw an acrobatic and percussion show, with performers twirling Brazil flags, beating drums, performing somersaults, and other acrobatic feats.

An MC then welcomed fans, and showcased tweets with the #MyFanZone hashtag on the zone’s LED screens.

During half-time, Wonho Chung, a Korean comedian born and raised in Saudi Arabia, entertained the audience.

Fans can expect similar entertainment during other matches, with a lineup including:

  • Capoeira performers challenging Middle Eastern footballers;
  • Beatboxing sessions with Dubai-based performer Ray;
  • Comedians Hamad Al-Amari and Hisam Fageeh;
  • Sand artist Shayma Al Mughairy;
  • Singer Hala Al Turk; and
  • 2xtreme Football – a show combining martial arts, parkour, freestyle football, and breakdancing.

Do you plan to check out the fan zone over the next few weeks? Thoughts?

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