Qatar unveils plans for 'island' stadium

LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Qatar unveiled its ultra-modern Lusail Stadium on Wednesday which would host the opening match and World Cup final in 2022 if its bid to stage the tournament wins FIFA's approval in December.

The air-conditioned stadium, which would have a capacity of 86,000, would take four years to build, would be expected to be completed by 2019 and would also be surrounded by water. If Qatar loses its bid, the ground will not be built.

Bid CEO chairman Hassan Al-Thawadi told Reuters at the Leaders in Football conference that with eight weeks to go before FIFA make their decision, he was optimistic that Qatar could stage the first World Cup in the Middle East.

Qatar's candidature received some criticism from FIFA's inspection team last month when Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the head of the FIFA delegation, said that the country's small size, rather than the summer temperatures that can soar to above 50C degrees, could cause logistical problems.

Qatar would become the smallest host nation to stage the finals since Uruguay hosted the first World Cup in 1930 if it won FIFA's approval.

However, Al Thawadi said his team had responded to the inspection team's observations.

"If you look at their comments, they did not refer to the weather and for us that was a great, great success. A lot of people thought that our Achilles heel was the weather, but we have proved with our air-conditioned technology, we can overcome that.

"Regarding some of their comments regarding logistics and so on - we are proposing a unique and innovative concept - a compact World Cup (because of the size of the country).

"Whenever you are pioneering a new concept it requires time for people to understand it. There will be sceptics, and they are right to be sceptical. They raised their concerns, but we think although those concerns might be valid, we are able to overcome them."

The Lusail Stadium completes the line-up of the 12 stadiums Qatar would use in 2022 and would incorporate the air-conditioning technology the country has pioneered to make their stadiums more comfortable.

Qatar is one of four bids for the 2022 finals along with Australia, South Korea and Japan. They are spending $4 billion dollars building nine new stadiums and renovating three others.

Due to the format of the FIFA bidding process, the five bids trying to host the 2018 finals are also going for 2022 - in theory at least - with England, Russia, the United States and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands in contention.

All bidding nations presented their candidatures before delegates at the conference, apart from Australia.

The bidding war for the World Cup is beginning to intensify with FIFA president Sepp Blatter planning to visit British Prime Minister David Cameron in London next week.

FIFA will announce which countries will stage each event in Zurich on December 2.