Inside the Qatar control room watching over the World Cup

Mar 28, 2022, 12:13 AM | Updated: 12:58 pm

People work in the command center in that will be at the heart of World Cup operations in Doha, Qat...

People work in the command center in that will be at the heart of World Cup operations in Doha, Qatar, Monday, March 28, 2022. All is quiet and calm now. By November, this command center will be at the heart of World Cup operations. The Associated Press has had a first look inside one of the key locations overseeing security and logistics for the most high-profile sporting event to be staged in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Rob Harris)

(AP Photo/Rob Harris)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A map of the world flashes cyber threat warnings. Into view across the big-screen-covered wall comes live video from World Cup stadiums. Then there’s the incident alarm panels for all eight venues in Qatar.

This command center for the World Cup is all quiet and calm. By November, however, it will be at the heart of operations for the most high-profile sporting event to be staged in the Middle East.

This is a first look inside one of the key locations overseeing security and logistics.

As a screen with the map of Qatar shows starkly, the World Cup is being staged in the most compact setting ever. All eight stadiums being monitored from this room, which is on the Aspire sports campus on the outskirts of Doha, are within a 30-mile (50-kilometer) radius of the capital of this energy-rich Gulf nation.

Most of the 32 nations will have discovered where they will be playing after the tournament draw takes place in the center of Doha on Friday — the first major gathering of world football in the city since Qatar so unexpectedly won the FIFA hosting vote in 2010. The decision required a major upgrade of infrastructure and for this tiny nation to prepare for an unprecedented influx of supporters.

“We have the capabilities to remotely monitor every system we can, control every system, and thereby change the behavior in the stadiums,” Niyas Abdulrahiman, an executive director with the local organizers, told The Associated Press.

Abdulrahiman was speaking while surrounded by staff peering into banks of monitors.

“We can also receive alarms and notifications as part of our proactive monitoring in the command center. Before something goes wrong.”

Qatar claims it is the most sophisticated system ever seen at a sporting event. In linking the stadiums to one hub, each stadium also has a digital version of itself that allows officials to trace an issue on site.

The deadly crush in January involving fans at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon could be avoided at the World Cup thanks to the command center’s ability to offer key decisions about crowd control and whether to open gates.

“One of the most powerful features of this command center is coordinating the different actions on the ground in the event of any unfortunate incident, such as … a crowd-based situation,” Abdulrahiman said.

“Here the power of the platform is that you have total control over those systems and, if such an incident happens, there’s a predefined standard operating procedure that … starts executing one, two, three steps. So one of them would be that, if there is an emergency, open all the gates. So that can happen all at once.”

Public announcements can be triggered from the command center to be broadcast at stadiums, including urging an evacuation. Messages can be flashed on the stadium screens from the keyboards surrounding Abdulrahiman.

“If there’s an incident in one stadium,” he said, “we can not only manage that incident in that stadium, but also how it will influence the other stadiums.”

But such connectivity poses risks made clear by the map of the globe showing live threats from hackers and countries being attacked digitally to penetrate systems. Cyber surveillance will be happening around the clock to try and ensure modern online warfare does not pose a risk to the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 FIFA showpiece.

“Cyber terrorism has become more and more prominent and has become a favorite tool for people with bad intentions,” Abdulrahiman said. “We have made sure that we have the tools and capabilities and people to be prepared for such unfortunate scenarios.”


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

Inside the Qatar control room watching over the World Cup