FIFA World Cup 2022: Dark secret behind Qatar's beautiful stadiums

The interior of Al-Bayt Stadium is seen left, with an aerial shot of Al-Janoub stadium seen right.
Qatar has built seven new stadiums for the FIFA World Cup and significantly renovated an eighth to accomodate the thousands of fans visiting the country. Pictures: Getty Images

Qatar has promised to put on a spectacle to be remembered for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but when the show is over there will be a cost to be counted.

Not just in terms of the staggering financial outlay to ready the relatively small Middle Eastern nation for the tens of thousands of fans expected to travel, but what will become of the various new stadiums and facilities that have been purpose-built for the World Cup.

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A total of eight different stadiums will host matches when the tournament gets underway on November 21, however there are concerns about the long-term feasibility of them once the World Cup has concluded.

Additionally, Qatar has come under pressure for their treatment of the thousands of migrant workers recruited to build and re-purpose the stadiums, with many accusations of companies withholding pay and confiscating the passports of workers, as well as terrible safety conditions.

According to government figures, some 30,000 migrant workers were recruited by the Qatari government for the projects, many of whom came from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines.

A report from The Guardian in February 2021 claimed as many as 6500 of those workers died during the construction of the World Cup facilities, based on data collected from the embassies of various different countries who had citizens working in Qatar.

Qatar has disputed this figure, claiming in response that just 37 fatalities were recorded during construction, with three of them 'work related'.

The response from the government has been criticised by labour rights movements, with the International Labour Organisation claiming Qatar's figure to be a gross underestimate because it does not take into account deaths from either respiratory or heart failure.

The ILO has suggested heatstroke would have been a significant factor given the harsh Qatar climate, believing at least 50 foreign workers to have died in 2021 alone, while more than 500 were injured and more than 31,000 cases of heatstroke were reported.

In 2017, measures were introduced to attempt to curb the exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar, however the BBC has reported these changes have had a negligible effect.

Qatar's massive FIFA World Cup construction efforts under fire

While Qatar's being the smallest nation to host the World Cup since Switzerland back in 1954, many have questioned the long-term usability of the seven newly-constructed stadiums in the nation.

Nations being left with under-utilised sporting facilities constructed at a high price in the lead-up to major events such as the World Cup and Olympic Games has emerged as a source of concern when selecting host nations.

Seven of the eight stadiums to be used have been built completely from the ground up, with only the existing Khalifa International Stadium renovated to accomodate up to 40,000 spectators.

Some of the new stadiums will be brought down again after the World Cup, while others, such as the Lusail Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium, will be modified and repurposed to a degree.

Lusail Stadium stands to be renovated to accommodate housing units, shops, schools, cafes and medical clinics, with its upper deck to be converted into upper level terraces.

A wide shot Stadium 974 in Doha ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Stadium 974 in Doha was constructed from more than 900 shipping containers, and will make way for a waterfront development once the FIFA World Cup has concluded. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

The demountable Stadium 974 in Ras Abu Aboud, which was largely constructed from reused shipping containers, is set to make way for a waterfront development, with many of the seats to be repurposed elsewhere in Qatar or donated to neighbouring countries.

Most of the World Cup venues are expected to halve their seating capacity afterwards, with Qatar's relatively small domestic competition only boasting two teams which will continue to play in the newly minted facilities.

The Education City Stadium, predictably, will be repurposed to house some 8000 students from eight different universities and 11 different schools.

While the stadium construction has resulted in several architectural wonders for football fans to behold, there can be no forgetting the human price paid in order to do so.

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