Isenberg Researcher's Infrastructure Models Will Support Future World Cup Tournament
November 22, 2013
Ahmed Ghoniem, an assistant professor of Operations and Information Management at Isenberg, is leading a three-year project that is creating infrastructure and logistics planning models for the 2022 FIFA World Cup (soccer) tournament in Qatar. Funded by the state-run Qatar Foundation, Ghoniem is focusing on Qatar's transportation and lodging systems. "We hope to determine what mix of lodging and transportation will offer the most efficient, least congested movement of people and resources," notes Ghoniem. "To do that, we will create models and run simulations with alternative transportation modes and routing. We'll also incorporate different scenarios, including time of day, date, and probable demand for specific games."
Qatar is investing $200 billion on transport and tourism infrastructure through 2022, Ghoniem observes. Qatar proposed 12 stadiums, seven of them in the capital, Doha. Like previous Cup hosts, Qatar's venues extend beyond the capital city. But owing to the kingdom's diminutive land mass and concentrated population, all of the stadiums will be within a 37 mile radius. That will pose added congestion challenges.
Ghoniem's models will also incorporate estimated population flows into Qatar by fans from various nations and regions. "We plan to estimate the drawing power of specific games on fans from the Gulf and North Africa, which we think will be significant," he says. Qatar, he notes, is the first Arab nation to host the Cup. "We're also looking at demand nation by nation. We'll want to ask, for example, how many fans might make the trip from Great Britain when England plays? We also want to know what types of lodging will appeal to fans from different nations."
Getting a handle on such questions will entail extensive mining of historical data. For this, Ghoniem is turning to FIFA, its national committees, and national tourism offices. He also plans to incorporate data from next summer's FIFA Cup in Brazil into his models. And he is partnering with researchers at Qatar University, which now houses a FIFA office.
Ghoniem submitted his project proposal to the Qatar government last January and received funding of over half a million dollars last summer. That reflects a project with fast-track status. To that end, he must meet reporting milestones every six months. The chair of Isenberg's Operations & Information Management Department, Iqbal Agha, who has extensive experience with network optimization models, is a consultant to the project. "Our object isn't to propose solutions; it's to expose logistical implications of alternative scenarios," observes Ghoniem. "We're beginning by establishing the big picture. Then we'll zoom in on the specifics."