Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Inside the Qatar control room that watches over the World Cup

DOHA, Qatar ( Associated Press) – A map of the world flashes warnings about cyber threats. Live video from World Cup stadiums can be seen over the wall covered with large screens. Then there are 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 the core of operations for the most high-profile sporting event hosted in the Middle East.

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

As a screen with the map of Qatar clearly shows, the World Cup is being hosted in the most compact environment ever. All eight stadiums monitored from this room, located 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 are going to play after the draw takes place in central Doha on Friday – the first major soccer event in the city since Qatar so unexpectedly won the 2010 FIFA host vote. decision required a major upgrade of infrastructure and for this small nation to prepare for an unprecedented influx of supporters.

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

Abdulrahiman spoke as he was surrounded by staff peeking at the banks of monitors.

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

Qatar claims it is the most sophisticated system ever seen at a sporting event. By linking the stadiums to one hub, each stadium also has a digital version of itself that enables officers to detect a problem on the site.

The deadly pressure in January in which supporters were involved in the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon can be avoided at the World Cup thanks to the command center’s ability to provide key decisions on crowd control and whether gates need to be opened.

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

“This power of the platform is that you have total control over those systems and, if such an incident occurs, there is a predetermined standard operating procedure that … starts performing one, two, three steps. So one of they would be that, if there is an emergency, open all the gates. So it can all happen at once. “

Public announcements can be activated from the command center to be broadcast at stadiums, including a call for an evacuation. Messages can be flashed on the stadium screens from the keyboards around Abdulrahiman.

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

But such connectivity poses risks that are made clear by the map of the world that shows direct threats from hackers and countries that are digitally attacked to invade systems. Cyber ​​surveillance will take place throughout the day to try to ensure that modern online warfare does not pose a risk for the November 21-Dec. 18 FIFA showpiece.

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

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