DOHA: The Qatar World Cup venue designed by celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid will be finished by the end of 2018, officials responsible for the project said yesterday. The 40,000 capacity, $575 million (465 million euros) Al-Wakrah Stadium is expected to be one of two further 2022 venues completed this year.
Building work on the 60,000 Al-Bayt stadium is also expected to be completed by December. If so, it will mean Qatar-which has said it is spending almost $500 million a week on World Cup-related projects-will have built almost half of its proposed eight venues with four years still to go to the tournament.
The Khalifa International Stadium, also the venue for the 2019 World Athletics Championships, was completed last year. "We will be finishing hopefully by the end of this year and then ready to use," Thani Al-Zarraa, Al-Wakrah's project manager told AFP.
One of the major tasks ahead is to fit the stadium's distinctive retractable roof-meant to resemble the sails of a traditional dhow fishing boat-comprised of some 1,400 pieces, which will be shipped to Qatar from Italy.
Once completed, 2022 World Cup officials will trial the stadium with "test matches" including potential international friendlies, said Zarraa. He said the design would also make it "one of the loudest stadiums" in 2022.
"All the ambience and cheering will hit the roof and come back into the stadium," he said. Al-Wakrah, some 15 kilometres south of the capital Doha, will be used during the World Cup for games up to and including quarter-finals.
After the World Cup, the capacity will be reduced to 20,000. It was one of Hadid's last major designs before her death in March 2016, aged 65. Major works by Hadid include the Guangzhou Opera House in China, the Bergisel ski jump and the aquatics centre at the 2012 London Olympics.
Zarraa said the stadium would "be one of her (Hadid's) legacies". The project has not been without controversy. Qatar has come under intense pressure for its human rights record and treatment of its huge migrant labour force, numbering some two million, since winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Hadid took successful legal action when it was claimed she had no concern for the plight of labourers in Qatar helping build Al-Wakrah. She also had to defend claims that the stadium's design was offensive and resembled female genitalia.
Baghdad-born Hadid called such criticism "embarrassing". Qatar is building eight stadiums for the World Cup, although FIFA has yet to decide on a final number of venues and could instruct the gas-rich Gulf state to build a ninth. - AFP