The events surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics were controversial, to say the least. So it’s a bit worrying that the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar may blow that out of the water. Fans and critics across the glob have criticized the decision since its announcement in December of 2010. If the decision was in all actuality based on promoting the Arab world to the West, as claimed, then this would be an admirable choice. However, that does not appear to be the case. Not entirely, at least.
Instead, the decision has faced scrutiny for many serious allegations from the get go. How exactly a nation the size of the state of Connecticut earned the right was first questioned. What started out as a bid supported by the Arab League soon turned into something football’s global authority, FIFA, has become synonymous with: bribery. When those allegations began to gain validity, it started to become clear how the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Australia came up short.
While there are more serious concerns that will be discussed later, size alone should have eliminated the nation. That doesn’t mean that an Arab nation World Cup shouldn’t have been in the running. However, maybe one with more size could have been promoted. Or a more popular option could be to share the event with neighboring countries, similar to the 2002 Japan/South Korea World Cup. This idea did surface, but nothing serious ever has come of it. When factoring in past World Cup hosts Qatar did gain credibility as a newcomer. Of the competing final nations, only Qatar and Australia haven’t hosted a tournament.
When comparing even just those two nations, Australia seems a better fit for many reasons. Yet this discussion seems all for naught, as at this point there are no plans to remove the games from Qatar despite mounting reports and pressure. This, in part, comes from the enabling of FIFA and its top ranking officials. This will be discussed further, as they have eschewed many of the damning claims emerging out of the tiny nation.
If the reports from Amnesty International and other trade unions are true, then Qatar is an absolute nightmare to work in. Migrants, primarily from southern Asia, have faced conditions that could result in as many as 4,000 workers dying if the workforce continues to grow. Many are dying from heart attacks, victims of inhospitable work conditions and shady business practices.
Workers are allegedly provided with insufficient amounts of food and water, a claim worsened by the fact that the summer heat of Qatar is dangerous even for those who are not exerting themselves. After trade unions visited the capital of Doha, they deemed the government a “facade.” The report went on to claim that the government allowed migrants to live in packed living conditions, similar to livestock. The report went on to say, “Grown men said they were treated like animals, living like horses in a stable.Tragically, a small number of Qatari power brokers have chosen to build the trappings of a modern economy off the backs of exploited and enslaved workers.”
Amnesty International has called on FIFA to get involved. FIFA’s oft-controversial President, Sepp Blatter, stated that FIFA did have some responsibility, but could not interfere in worker rights. This comes as some surprise, as South Africa was only awarded its World Cup in 2010, after it abolished its last Apartheid law in 1991. While they’re different rights issues, it is hard to believe that FIFA can’t apply some pressure on the situation.
Human Rights And Recognition
Qatar’s mix of civil and Islamic law does not create an ideal destination for anyone in search of equal rights. While 2018’s host, Russia, is sure to face more of the same controversy that it did during the Olympics, Qatar could come under fire for much more.
An example: Qatar does not recognize the nation of Israel, though it has already stated that the nation would be welcome to compete if it qualified. This may seem like an olive branch to some, but when considering the fact that Israel has only made one World Cup appearance (1970), it seems like this issue will most likely not arise much more.
The more pressing issue is Qatar’s stance on homosexuality and children’s rights. The nation does not establish an age of consent for anyone when marrying. As long as the parents consent, a child can be married at any age.
When it comes to homosexuality, the law only explicitly forbids interactions between two men. That said, lesbian women in Qatar are often sent for “treatment” meant to eliminate homosexual behavior and desire. Any rights beyond this are all but absent for any homosexual living in Qatar.
This has rights groups from across the globe calling on FIFA to address the issue, which has not amounted to much. One form of protest has come in the form a suggestion from the Netherlands. A member of the Dutch Parliament for the Freedom Party suggested that the nation wear pink instead of the nation’s orange colors in protest. This issue wasn’t helped by Sepp Blatter’s comments that, “[gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities” while in Qatar. When asked to make an apology, FIFA said that they would not discuss it further.
As previously stated, Qatar’s summer weather is sweltering. Downright unsafe even. Temperatures can reach as high as 122 degrees in the summer. While the nation has factored this into stadium construction it is still a major issue facing resolution. Qatar based doctors have claimed that the weather will affect player’s performances as well as recovery times. This has caused a debate about when the tournament should be held.
Qatar has insisted that the games can and should take place during the summer to stay with the tradition of the event. FIFA, however, has continued to suggest that the tournament be moved to cooler months, specifically November and December. While European leagues argue this will affect their seasons, and affect religious winter holidays, Blatter has been steadfast. Some allege that his claim that Europe must understand that they don’t rule the world anymore is just a ploy to deflect the error of giving the games to Qatar. A decision on the issue has been pushed back to next year.
Qatar is on pace to spend sixty times more than South Africa did on the 2010 World Cup. That’s not global inflation either. Qatar planned to have twelve stadiums built for the World Cup. This has recently been reduced to eight due to mounting costs to beat the heat. While FIFA is placing the blame on French and German construction teams, others are placing the blame on the country. As always with Qatar’s World Cup, weather plays a significant factor. Cooling systems for the stadiums are the main source of bloating costs.
There are some positives in this problem, though. With fewer stadiums to be built, the workforce and pressure on migrants will decrease to some degree. While far from a solution, it is a start. Another interesting fact is that some of the top tiers of stadiums will be taken down after the World Cup and given to developing nations in Africa. This will allow those nations to have stadiums that could lead to their own World Cup in the future. Hopefully they won’t have as much controversy surrounding them if that day comes.
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