Qatar unveils dhow-inspired stadium amid World Cup controversy

Qatar reveals the design of its new football stadium despite the debate over changing the 2022 World Cup dates.

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Qatar on Saturday unveiled the design for a new soccer stadium, inspired by a traditional fishing boat but with a cooled pitch, as it presses ahead with plans for the 2022 World Cup despite the dispute over when it can be held due to the heat.

Soccer governing body FIFA has launched a consultation process to decide whether the tournament, initially scheduled to be held in the traditional June-July slot, when temperatures can reach around 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit), should be moved to a cooler time such as November-December.

Under the blueprint released by Qatar’s 2022 Supreme Committee, the stadium in the al-Wakrah region, 15 km (10 miles) from the capital Doha, will have shaded spectator stands cooled between 24 and 28C and a natural grass pitch cooled to 26C.

The design, topped with a structure resembling the sails of a dhow, also includes a spectator area outside the ground that will be temperature controlled at 30-32C.

The plan gave no specific details how the cooling system would work, other than saying it would incorporate “shading, aerodynamic and mechanical cooling components”.

The question of the heat during a summer tournament has been a one of several controversies since Qatar was announced as the winner of the bid in December 2010.

Players’ union FIFPro has said it will urge its members not to take part if it is played in Qatar’s summer, even if air conditioning is installed in the stadiums.

Qatar has also been hit by allegations of migrant construction workers not being given enough food or water, as well as accusations of corruption over the voting procedure to win the bid. Officials have denied the accusations.

“Al-Wakrah is the first of six stadiums already in the latter stages of the design process, our committee has issued 10 major tenders to the market encompassing project and design managers and stadium-operation consultants,” Hassan al-Thawadi, the general secretary of the 2022 committee told reporters.

He said stadium, with a capacity of 40,000 people, would be completed by 2018, but declined to comment on the cost.

Overall, the tiny gas-rich state plans to spend about $140 billion on a rail system, a new airport, a seaport, and hundreds of kilometers of new roads for the tournament, in addition to the stadiums that will host the matches.

Asked how the committee plans to limit any risk of abuse to workers, al-Thawadi said the committee was dedicated to applying all clauses in its workers’ charter to make sure the rights of the workers were going to be respected and upheld.

“If there are any deaths above zero that would be unacceptable for us,” he said.