Designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid and inspired by the shape of the traditional boats of the region, Qatar’s Al Janoub Stadium is complete. The stadium, which features bright white sails that wrap around its soaring structure, opened to the public for the first time on May 16 to host its inaugural game. Located in the coastal city of Al Wakrah, 14 miles from Doha, it is the first new stadium built for the most popular sporting event on the planet.
Today it can hold 40,000 people in seats during the competition, but its capacity will be reduced to 20,000 after the World Cup is over because the local team, the Al Wakrah Sport Club, doesn’t need so many seats. The design also boasts a temporary shell structure built outside its permanent footprint for concession stands meant to serve the 40,000 vuvuzela players–er, fans–that will be attending the World Cup games. The building is also connected to the country’s capital through the new Doha Metro system.
FIFA received heavy criticism for its selection of Qatar as the 2022 host country, since temperatures normally reach 108 Fahrenheit in the summer, with peaks of 123 degrees in Doha in particular. That’s why the the 2022 World Cup will be the first played in the winter, when temperatures range from 77 to 86 degrees in Qatar. (The architects also designed a retractable roof and a seat cooling system that will reduce the typically high temperatures of the desert country long after the World Cup ends.)
The time change was far from the only controversy caused by Qatar’s host duties. As reported by The Guardian in 2014, hundreds of Indian and Nepalese workers have died since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Zaha Hadid famously commented that “I think that’s an issue the government–if there’s a problem–should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.” The architect would later sue The New York Review of Books for defamation over an article that criticized her stance on the issue, saying her comments were taken out of context. In fact, construction on Al Janoub had not yet begun when she commented, according to an apology in the NYRB.
Regardless of the role of Zaha Hadid Architects or any other firm involved in the World Cup, Amnesty International continues to report on the slow pace of labor reform in the country, noting that the government and FIFA must both bear responsibility for the treatment of workers on World Cup projects.