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British architect Dame Zaha Hadid has defended her involvement in designing the first stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, insisting it was not her “duty” to help combat the death and abuse of migrant workers there.
Hadid, who was awarded a damehood in 2012 after designing the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics, expressed concern over the plight of those building the infrastructure that will allow the Gulf State to host the tournament.
But the 63-year-old architect of its Al Wakrah Stadium insisted she was powerless to apply pressure on the Qatari government to prevent the death and abuse of migrant construction workers, hundreds of whom have lost their lives in recent years.
Hadid, who was born in Baghdad before emigrating to the UK, said: “I’m more concerned about the deaths in Iraq as well, so what do I do about that? I’m not taking it lightly but I think it’s for the government to look to take care of. It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.
“I can make a statement, a personal statement, about the situation with the workers, but I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it.”
Early works have begun on the Al Wakrah Stadium, the design of which Hadid has been forced to defend from accusations it resembled female genitalia.
Unlike infrastructure projects, which are the sole responsibility of the Qatari government, Hadid’s stadium is the first development under the care of World Cup organisers.
The Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy this month published a workers’ charter in an attempt to safeguard the rights of its migrant employees, something Hadid welcomed. She added: “I think there are discrepancies all over the world. In a civil society, you have to make sure those are ironed out. But you can only do things incrementally.”
Hadid was speaking at the official unveiling of the redeveloped London 2012 Aquatics Centre, which becomes a public swimming pool from Saturday. Children will be able to swim at the iconic venue for as little as £2.50, with adult prices starting at £3.50, in line with most public baths in the UK.
Keeping prices so low could depend on securing a marquee sponsor for the venue and the London Legacy Development Corporation yesterday revealed its strategy for doing so.
Chief executive Dennis Hone announced that the naming rights for the Aquatics Centre, velodrome and Copper Box would be offered to whichever company secures the same honour for the Olympic Stadium but warned the winning bidder’s name would not be added to or replace that of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Claiming the LLDC had already witnessed interest from “major blue-chip companies, not just in the UK but around the world”, Hone said: “They will want to look at a package that meets their needs. That package could include the Park, it could include the Aquatics, it could include the Copperbox, but it may not.
“That’s why I’m saying that we have to sort out the major sponsor.”
Hone was “very confident” the latter would be secured by the end of the year on a decade-long contract.