Many wondered how a country so hot could host a soccer tournament when it was chosen to host the men's World Cup. Air-conditioned outdoor stadiums were built for the purpose. The technology could be used to protect the health of athletes. Despite efforts to power AC systems with green energy sources, this is a flawed solution.

Adding to the controversy is the idea of putting energy-guzzling air-conditioning into open-air, roofless stadiums. The host country has promised that the AC systems in seven of its eight World Cup stadiums have been built with sustainable thinking. According to the International Federation of Association Football, the ACs will draw energy from solar panels and shoot cool air only to the parts of the stadium that need it the most.

Experts don't think AC systems in outdoor stadiums are sustainable. Air-conditioning is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions according to Shelie Miller. The strain on the electricity grid and faulty AC units that leak refrigerant chemicals are related to this. The global use of indoor air-conditioning is expanding rapidly, which will cause the emissions problem to get worse. With outdoor AC tech readily available, it may seem like an easy fix for heat-related illnesses at sporting events, an issue that plagued the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will affect more events as the climate crisis continues. Miller says that it is a bad idea because the cold air escapes into the environment. We close our windows when we use our air conditioners.

According to Jessica Murfree, a sport ecologist at Texas A&M University, one way to make stadium AC more efficient is to use it only in closed stadiums. She admits that it is difficult to imagine a world where all sport is indoors. It is hard for me to think about a football or baseball season without rain, snow, or direct sunlight.

In order to make the AC systems more energy efficient, engineers have tried to direct cool air only to the areas that need it. She says that if you improve the energy efficiency of a huge load of electricity, you have a huge load of electricity.

Miller doesn't think that solar power is good enough for the AC systems inQatar. She says that there are still limits to being able to produce energy with renewable technology. Even though we have access to renewable technologies, it doesn't mean we can spend energy wherever we want. The AC systems for the stadiums in Qatar are powered by solar power, but it was not clear if that was the case.

Cool technology is appealing for a World Cup hosted in a hot country. In the coming weeks, temperatures are expected to be in the 70s and 80s degrees F, despite the fact that the men's World Cup is being held in a different part of the world.

Every increase in degrees F brings a greater risk of more severe illnesses. He says that warm temperatures can put pressure on the cardiovascular system and cause stress to the kidneys. The core body temperature rises when the body can't compensate for the heat. There is a chance of heat stroke if you move from heat exhaustion to potential heat stroke.

A picture shows parts of the cooling system at the al-Janoub Stadium on April 20, 2022 in Doha, which will host matches of the FIFA football World Cup 2022.
A picture shows parts of the cooling system at the al-Janoub Stadium on April 20, 2022 in Doha, which will host matches of the FIFA football World Cup 2022. Credit: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

He says that soccer players have less risk factors for heat illness than the average person. Young children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to heat risks than players. The air-conditioning in the stadium can help protect athletes from heat stress and create a more comfortable environment for fans and stadium workers. The risk of heat illness can be reduced by cooler temperatures.

The Hong Kong Sports Institute's Carl James says that stadium air-conditioning may allow players to perform better. Soccer players' physical performance is impaired in warm climates. Players undertake fewer sprints, they choose to pass the ball more, and passes are shorter. James believes that using air-conditioning will lead to faster-paced games where players can sprint more and take more risks. He says that in hot conditions you can't afford to use that kind of energy. The results would be dependent on the efficiency of the stadium AC systems. He wants to know how consistent the air flow is across the field. When asked about the questions by Scientific American, the spokespeople for the organization didn't give any answers.

It's very expensive to use outdoor AC to respond to a warming world. The solutions are likely to make sports more difficult to access. If climate control technology becomes the norm for competition at an advanced level, fewer and less people will have access to sports.

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There are alternatives to keep athletes safe from heat stress. James suggests giving players time to acclimatize to hot temperatures. Spending some time living and training in the heat prior to a tournament can help protect players from heat illnesses. Many players didn't get much time to prepare for the World Cup. The World Cup is happening in the middle of the European playing season, which means people are coming from a cold European winter.

When high heat becomes a real concern, more breaks would be added. There are a number of simple fixes that can be used to manage heat stress. Although cooling vests and similar garments use ice packs or the circulation of chilly liquids to keep wearers cool, they might be too large to be used during soccer matches. Extreme cooling, which involves dipping your arms in cold water before an event, can help keep you cool. There is ongoing research into what types of liquids are best for keeping the body cool.

There are many ways that players can beat the heat. It comes at a high cost to the environment. Miller says that air-conditioning is causing climate change and we need air-conditioning to respond to it. The problem would only get worse if large outdoor stadiums were added to the equation.

Miller says that the cooling of open-air stadiums isn't how we get there.