Zaha Hadid Interview On BBC's Today Programme Turns Awkward Over Qatari Stadium Deaths Question

BBC Apologises After Architect Cuts Short Interview

UPDATE: The BBC has apologised for implying for its interview with Zaha Hadid.

After the architect hung up during the interview, the broadcaster published a statement saying: "The ITUC’s figure of 1200 construction deaths which was quoted on this morning’s programme refers to the whole of Qatar, and not specifically to the main World Cup stadium site.

"We are sorry we didn’t make this clear in this morning’s interview with Dame Zaha Hadid. We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site."

A Today Programme "interviewee from hell" cut the interview short after a heated exchange over whether construction workers had died on the Qatari stadium she designed.

Architect Dame Zaha Hadid said she had sued other media for reporting that workers had died on the construction site after presenter Sarah Montague asked about the subject.

Zaha Hadid (above) was interview by The Today Programme's Sarah Montague

Eventually, Hadid said "listen to me" and said she was ending the interview.

Qatar is in the middle of a construction boom as it prepares to host the 2022 Football World Cup. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have moved there to help build it and the conditions they work in has concerned human rights group.

Hadid was being interviewed about being the first female architect to receive the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

After discussing sexism in the architecture business for several minutes, Montague raised the issue of Qatari worker deaths, which human rights groups have raised repeatedly.

Montague: There have been considerable problems, not least the number of deaths...

Hadid: There haven't been any problems, I have to put you right there. There has not been a single problem on our stadium in Qatar.

Montague: More than 1,200 workers migrant workers have died...

Hadid: Absolutely no true. We sued somebody for writing that, saying that and it's had to be withdrawn from the press but it's absolutely inaccurate.

Montague: It is very widely reported that there are huge numbers...

Hadid: No. It's absolutely untrue.

Montague: What is your understanding of the number of deaths from...

Hadid: There's no deaths on our site whatsoever.

Montague: There have been no deaths of construction workers...

Hadid: Absolutely not. Yeah, you should check your, you know, your information, before you say anything.

Hadid then said she was only talking about her stadium's construction site, adding: "I'm not talking about the entire planet".

Montague added it was "fascinating to clear that up".

Temperatures still raised, the presenter then raised the issue of the new national sports stadium in Tokyo for the Olympics, which Hadid won a competition to design but withdrew from recently.

She called it a "scandal" and said she only pulled out because there was no contractor for the project.

"Again this is a very serious story, it should be reported accurately," Hadid said. She then began a lengthy explanation of the issue and when Montague tried to hurry her, she said: "Don't ask me a question when you can't let me finish it. Then I won't say anything."

Montague claimed the project was abandoned because of soaring costs. Hadid answered: "Listen to me, let's stop the conversation right now. I don't want to carry on. Thank you very much."

Montague then ended the item.

Reaction was divided, with Hadid being labelled the "interviewee from hell" while others were sympathetic.

Hadid is the not the first person to claim no one has died on a Qatari stadium.

The Qatari government has previously claimed this, prompting migrant worker rights campaigners to say the claim is misleading as it does not refer to deaths on other World Cup construction sites, death from other causes and the power employers have over their workers.

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