In Midst of Controversy, Qatar Cancels Four Stadiums

The Gulf state has announced that it will reduce the number of stadia it had planned to build for the 2022 World Cup.

In the face of on-going scandals over corruption and the exploitation of migrant labor, Qatar recently announced that it intends to scale back the number of stadiums from 12 to FIFA’s minimum requirement of eight. While the tiny Gulf state didn’t cite any official reason for the reduction, however, there is speculation that exploding costs and construction delays are to blame.

The price tag for what could be the world’s largest construction program is projected to exceed $200 billion, more than four times what Russia spent on the Sochi Olympic venues. There are also questions about whether Qatar can finish on time. The new airport being built to serve the event is reportedly six years behind schedule, and a new city, Lusail, intended to be the site for the World Cup finals and populated by eye-popping international architecture, has yet to be built.

But, there are human costs above and beyond the financial ones. Metropolis has been following the continuing story of migrant worker deaths on World Cup construction sites in Qatar, such as Zaha Hadid’s al-Wakrah stadium. Just one month ago the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) issued a damning report claiming that unless worker conditions are significantly improved there could be as many as 4000 more deaths. The UN and Amnesty International estimate that, to date, at least 1200 workers have died under “slave-like conditions” in connection with Qatar’s World Cup make-over.

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Reducing the number of stadiums does not address this problem. Qatar has the opportunity to use the World Cup as a catalyst for meaningful change in its labor practices. Is it time for global architects to collectively speak out to help bring the construction sites where their visions are currently being built up to international standards? Can Zaha Hadid still look the other way?

Guy Horton is a writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to authoring “The Indicator”, he is a frequent contributor to The Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis Magazine, The Atlantic Cities, and The Huffington Post. He has also written for Architectural Record, GOOD Magazine, and Architect Magazine. You can hear Guy on the radio and podcast as guest host for the show DnA: Design & Architecture on 89.9 FM KCRW out of Los Angeles. Follow Guy on Twitter @GuyHorton.

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