Archive for May 26, 2011

DOHA: Qatar has already attracted plenty of attention for the futuristic and colorful designs of its dozen proposed World Cup stadiums — including one shaped like a traditional Arabic fishing boat and another like a sea urchin.

Now the architects have unveiled detailed plans that will allow organisers to remove as many as 170,000 seats — including one entire stadium — from nine of the venues and send them to 22 locations in the developing world.

At a stadium conference in Doha this week, they said the initiative was aimed at insuring the World Cup would leave a lasting legacy.

“If we build up to the capacity which FIFA requires, afterward we would have a lot of white elephants around this area,” said Karin Bertaloth, whose firm is designing six new stadiums and two that will be upgraded.

“I don’t think Qatar needs this capacity.

We have the concept to build first tier of the stadium permanently and the second would only be for 2022.” Many of the stadiums also have plans to incorporate hotels, parks and even a spa, or the flexibility to be converted for athletics or other sports.

The push to consider the future of World Cup stadiums is nothing new, but has taken on much greater emphasis in Qatar, where a population of 1.6 million people means football clubs can barely fill a 15,000-seat stadium let alone some of the 80,000 behemoths that are required for a World Cup.

It also coincides with changing attitudes in stadium design, with developers under pressure to build facilities that are cheaper, more sustainable, and which have a long-term use beyond a sporting venue.

“Cities need to think about how a stadium can be used for alternative uses in the context of city, of the neighborhood, of the community it is in,” said Mark Fenwick, a director and partner with the designer of Education City, which will reduce from 45,000 seats to 25,000 after the World Cup.

Fenwick and others said Qatar’s approach also was inspired by the mistakes of past World Cups and Olympics, with several architects complimenting their presentations with photos of stadiums like those from the 2004 Athens Olympics which largely have gone unused or the Bird’s Nest in Beijing which is now little more than a tourist attraction.

South Africa, too, is struggling to make use of its 2010 World Cup stadiums.

Those in the northern cities of Rustenburg, Nelspruit and Polokwane, and in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town were all built from scratch.

They occasionally host games, but the cost of running the modern sites outweighs the income derived from small local crowds.

The company managing Cape Town’s $600-million, 65,000-capacity stadium — which held a World Cup semifinal — decided not to continue its contract after the tournament.

It has hosted just six club football matches this year.

Durban’s new Moses Mabhida Stadium is also rarely used, but will form the centerpiece of an expected Olympic bid from the east coast city.

“We are concerned,” said Eugene van Vuuren, a technical adviser for the 2010 World Cup who spoke at the three-day, Stadium and Venue Design and Development conference.

“We are sharing the stadiums and it is going well with all the existing stadiums.

But the new ones in Cape Town, in Durban, until they get it right where the rugby guys are joining the party they will always have a tough time.” Qatar not only wants to ensure it avoids empty stadiums but is hoping its venues can help transform and even build communities outside of the capital Doha.

Many of the 12 are being proposed for areas that are little more than patches of sand, and are expected to either be a destination for sports or education or the anchor for new residential developments.

“In Qatar, it’s less about the financial aspect of it as it is about what the World Cup can do for the country,” said Dan Meis, whose firm is building Sports City stadium which will have moving seats, a moving pitch and a retractable roof.

“The idea of creating buildings to be multipurpose and long use, it ends up developing a lot more and that becomes a legacy for Qatar.

The World Cup comes here, changes the country and creates development and experiences the country didn’t have before.” But Qatar is also using the World Cup to raise its profile on the international stage and that is where the stadium donations come in.

It plans to donate two 15,000-seat stadiums, eight 10,000-seat stadiums and 12 5,000-seat stadiums as part of a larger football development program that it says will “contribute emphatically to development of football and local society.” Van Vuuren welcomed Qatar’s offer to give away the seats but warned that it needs to factor in the upkeep and management of these new stadiums.

“It’s not just good to give facilities but you have to maintain and upkeep it,” he said.

“When you are in poorer countries, they just can’t do it.” Markus Pfisterer of the firm GMP also cautioned Qatar not to go too far in removing stadiums after the games, warning “that if you take it away and give it to somebody, you will have an empty parking lot at the end.

This is in our opinion not good for Qatar.”

(Source: Qatar Tribune)

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GENEVA — A flowering plant has been found at an altitude of above 4,505 metres (14,780 feet) on the central Swiss alps — a European record, Basel University, said Tuesday.

“It is almost a miracle, but at 4,505 metres, at 40 metres below the Dom peak in the canton of Valais, the … Saxifraga oppositifolia has been recently discovered,” said the university in a statement.

Purple Mountain Saxifrage

“It is the highest elevation flowering plant that has ever been documented in Europe, and the location is probably the coldest point in the world where a flowering plant has been found,” it added.

The plant, also known as the purple mountain saxifrage, is common in mountainous areas.

But it was found for the first time at such high altitude between solid rock by botanist Christian Koerner.

Scientists said that at such an altitude, the plant regularly has to endure night-time temperatures of below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and winter temperatures that plunge as low as -20.9 degrees Celsius.

In summer temperatures reach a maximum of 18.1 degrees Celsius.

(Source: AFP)

Photo: Purple Mountain Saxifrage/ Flickr

Qatar has reported a higher average personal income and the highest number of people satisfied with their current salary within the GCC countries, according to a Middle East salary survey conducted by Bayt.com.

The results of the survey, conducted in January this year covering 13 countries, were discussed yesterday at an employer round table event organised by the leading job site.

The survey participants were from Algeria (516), Bahrain (97), Egypt (1229), Jordan (570), Kuwait (332), Lebanon (289), Morocco (420), Oman (119), Qatar (289), Saudi Arabia (1677), Syria (247), Tunisia (143), and UAE (1646).

Qatar had the highest percentage (10) of people who earned a personal monthly income of $8,001 or more, $5001-8000 (15%), and $3001-5000 (17%).

Qatar, along with Bahrain, had the lowest percentage (8) of those who earned under $500 per month. Qatar reports a higher number (53%) of senior level employees, and UAE, Qatar, and Oman a higher employee turnover.

If 43% respondents from Qatar held two jobs over the past five years, it was 40% in UAE and 35% in Oman. Markets with higher expat labour (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain) shows greater acceptance of fixed pay structure.

As many as 60% of the respondents from Qatar expressed a medium level of satisfaction with their current salary, taking the country to the top slot in this segment.

Relatively higher proportion of dissatisfied employees are in Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon.

Qatar has respondents who save a relatively good sum of their salary, with 7% saving 51 to 75%, 16% saving 21 to 50%, and 13% saving 16 to 20%.

More than half of the total respondents are of the opinion that their current pay is lower than other companies in their industry.
Only Tunisia and Oman have one third of the sample stating that their pay is competitive with the market. In Qatar, 27% felt their pay is competitive with the market, 56% said their pay is lower than other companies in the industry, and 5% said it is higher than other companies in the industry.

(Source: Gulf Times)

The Economist magazine has accused India of hostile censorship after officials prevented the distribution of the latest edition because of a map showing the disputed borders of Kashmir.

Customs officers ordered that 28,000 copies of the news weekly should have stickers manually placed over a diagram showing how control of Kashmir is split between India, Pakistan and China.

Both India and Pakistan claim the whole of the tiny Himalayan region and have gone to war twice over its control since 1947.

New Delhi imposes tight restrictions on all printed maps, insisting they show all of Kashmir as being part of India.

“India is meant to be a democracy that approves of freedom of speech,” John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, told AFP. “But they take a much more hostile attitude on this matter than either Pakistan or China.”

He added: “This is an act of censorship, and many wise and sensible voices in India see it has no point.”

The map is used as an illustration for the front-page story of the latest edition of the magazine on “The world’s most dangerous border” between India and Pakistan.

The Economist still hoped to distribute the edition once the stickers had been added. The map is available on The Economist’s website.

Kashmir is divided between the two nuclear-armed neighbours along a de facto border known as the Line of Control. It closely matches the frontline of fighting at the end of the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947.

“We are just told ‘it is the law of India’,” Micklethwait said. “The map is impartial, accurate and fair. We show everyone’s claims, and it is also realistic as it shows where the unofficial border actually falls.”

The magazine has clashed in the past with Indian authorities.

In December an entire issue of The Economist was pulped on the censors’ orders over a map of the region, and its publishers predicted the May 21 edition was likely to hit trouble.

Offending maps in The Economist and other foreign publications are routinely targeted by the censors’ office, which stamps each page stating that the borders as shown do not reflect India’s claims.

“As a point of principle we are against changing our articles,” said Micklethwait, speaking by telephone from London on Monday. “So we mentioned the problem in a piece pointing out how touchy India is on this.”

The magazine also printed a warning saying the map was likely to be censored. “Unlike their government, we think our Indian readers can face political reality,” it said.

Sham Lal, a senior official in India’s ministry of information and broadcasting, declined to comment on Micklethwait’s remarks. “We have no knowledge and no comments to make on this matter,” he told AFP.

Wilson John, a Pakistan expert at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank in New Delhi, said that the map was seen as a national security issue by the Indian government.

“This is about sovereignty,” he said. “I’m not surprised as this behaviour is an accepted norm in India.

“Mapping in this region has been an issue for many decades and, because the territorial dispute is far from resolved, maps will remain a problem.”

He added India was generally proud of having a free press but that Kashmir “always creates sensitivities that have to be kept in mind”.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been a flashpoint since it became part of Hindu-majority India at partition in 1947 when British colonial rule of the subcontinent ended.

India and Pakistan nearly went to war over the region again as recently as 2002.

Relations between the countries have improved since then, but were hit by the Mumbai attacks in 2008 when Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.

Micklethwait said India was now an increasingly modern economic powerhouse with a growing number of Economist readers.

“Other publications have had the same problems, but perhaps we have been more in their face,” he said.

“China will not distribute whole issues for other reasons, but there is no country I know in the world that takes the extreme attitude that India does.”

(Source: AFP)

PARIS — Sex selection of foetuses in India has led to 7.1 million fewer girls than boys up to age six, a gender gap that has widened by more than a million in a decade, according to a study released Tuesday.

In Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents with access to prenatal ultrasound testing are aborting a second female in the hope that a subsequent pregnancy will yield a boy, said the study, published in The Lancet.

The increasingly lopsided ratio of girls to boys is larger in wealthy households than poorer ones, the researchers reported.

Between 1980 and 2010, they estimate, four to 12 million girls were aborted because of their sex.

“Selective abortion of female foetuses, usually after a firstborn girl, has increased in India over the past few decades, and has contributed to a widening imbalance in the child sex ratio,” they conclude.

The female shortfall for the zero-to-six age bracket was 6.0 million in 2001, and 4.2 million in 1991.

“Increases in selective abortion of girls are probably because of persistent son preference combined with decreases in fertility,” the authors say.

The mean number of children per Indian woman fell from 3.8 in 1990 to 2.6 in 2008.

Selective abortion of female foetuses accounts for two to four percent of female pregnancies in India, roughly 300,000 to 600,000 per year out of 13.3 to 13.7 million carrying a girl in 2010, the study found.

From 2001 to 2011, the practice increased at a rate of 170 percent, slowing from 260 percent over the previous decade.

In the study, researchers led by Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto, analysed census data from 2011 and earlier.

The also examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to calculate the difference in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.

They found that this ratio fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 girls per 1,000 boys in 2005, an annual decline of a half of a percent.

Declines were much greater in mothers who had gone to school for at least ten years than in mothers with no education at all. The same trend held true for wealthier households compared to poorer ones.

If the first child was a boy, however, there was no drop in the girl-boy ratio for the second child, showing that families — especially those better off and more educated — are far more likely to abort girls if the firstborn is also female.

By contrast, “we did not yet see any clear evidence of selective abortion of firstborn female foetuses,” the researchers said.

Unlike Beijing, New Delhi does not enforce the kind of “one-child policy” that led to the selective abortion of firstborn females in China.

The practice has left the country with 32 million more boys than girls, creating an imbalance that will endure for decades. In China, 94 percent of unmarried people aged 28 to 49 are male.

But first-pregnancy female abortions might increase in India too if fertility continues to drop, particularly in urban areas, the study warned.

A 1996 government regulation designed to prevent the use of ultrasound for prenatal sex determination is widely flouted, the researchers say, pointing out that few health providers have been charged or convicted.

“The financial incentive for physicians to undertake this illegal activity seems to be far greater than the penalties associated with breaking the law,” S. V. Subramanian of the Harvard School of Public Health said in a commentary, also in The Lancet.

(Source: AFP)