FIFA World Cup Opening ceremony scenes
FIFA World Cup Opening ceremony scenes. #FIFAWorldCup Photo credit: FIFA World Cup via Facebook official.
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Why Qatar’s World Cup opening ceremony was snubbed by some broadcasters

The 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar has been mired in human rights criticisms, FIFA corruption, and an overall combativeness towards their social norms and politics. With some broadcasters snubbing the opening ceremony, here is a recap of what led us here.

Despite the 2022 World Cup being the first tournament held in the Middle East and the first winter tournament, scandals have overshadowed these facts and caused division over one of the world’s most anticipated sporting events. Some of the accusations are corruption allegations and bribery during the host bidding process, reports of human rights abuses towards migrant workers and minority groups, disregard for carbon emissions, and criticisms that Qatar is using the event to ‘sportswash’ its image.

A quick recap:

Fraud and corruption

In January 2015, The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe published a report titled, ‘The Reform of Football Governance’. This report examined and exposed alleged corruption tied to Qatar’s successful bid in December 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup. A series of expose’s and probing followed in the subsequent years.

Notably, in supporting its interests (they were considered clear favourites before the vote), the US Department of Justice released an indictment In April 2020, which claimed that bribes were paid to football officials for their votes. The indictment, published by a federal court, accused media rights handlers and a company from Uruguay of wire fraud, money laundering, and other allegations.

At the time FIFA, the world football governing body responded in a statement saying it supported all investigations into “alleged acts of criminal wrongdoing” and noted it had been accorded victim status in the US criminal proceedings.

The 2022 World Cup logo
The 2022 World Cup logo. Photo credit: FIFA World Cup via Facebook official.

“The FIFA Ethics Committee has already imposed sanctions, including life bans, on football officials mentioned in this process,” said a FIFA spokesman. “As far as FIFA is concerned, should any acts of criminal wrongdoing by football officials be established, the individuals in question should be subject to penal sanctions.”

Even so, ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who announced Qatar’s success, admitted to Tages-Anzeiger that “The choice of Qatar was a mistake.”

“At the time, we actually agreed in the Executive Committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA that of 2022. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-standing political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.”

Ultimately, although they’ve been individual bans and convictions and the bidding process was flawed and highly suspect, there has been no clear path to holding Qatar itself accountable for any corruption in securing its World Cup bid success.

Human rights abuses

According to the Guardian, at least 6,500 migrant labourers have died in Qatar since the tournament was awarded. The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have died each week since December 2010. The publication clarifies that this total death toll is significantly higher because the figures do not include deaths from other countries which send large numbers of workers to Qatar, such as the Philippines and Kenya. Additionally, deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.

FIFA World Cup Opening ceremony scenes
AL KHOR, QATAR – NOVEMBER 20: Jung Kook of BTS performs during the opening ceremony prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Given that Qatar embarked on a massive building programme in preparation for the World Cup, speculation is that many of the dead were employed in these infrastructure projects that included seven new stadiums, a new airport, roads, and public transport systems.

Vox also reported that although Qatar, spent nearly $220 billion on new infrastructure it kept labor costs down by relying on “an extensive — and deeply exploitative — network of low-wage migrant labor”.

Workers interviewed by nonprofit groups like Amnesty International have described enduring an array of abuses, including wage theft, excessive working hours, dangerous working and living conditions, and physical and sexual abuse.

Extensions and accommodations

Tensions continued to worsen when FIFA decided to move the event dates to fit within the northern hemisphere’s winter which would help avoid Qatar’s extreme summer temperatures. Many saw this as further proof that FIFA was doing everything possible to pander to the host. This criticism, however, failed to account for the numerous fans and participants who would have been harmed if the change had not been made or that, considering the novelty of the location, accommodations never been made before would naturally arise.

False sustainability pledge

Given the precarious state of climate change, FIFA promised that this year’s tournament would be the first carbon-neutral World Cup in the competition’s history. Researchers, however, claim that this is far from reality.

Gilles Dufrasne, a climate researcher with Carbon Market Watch, who recently authored a report on the problems with the tournament’s sustainability pledge, says the calculations by the tournament’s organisers on total emissions associated with construction and the results of hosting vast numbers of people were undervalued.

The tournament’s organisers concluded that the event was responsible for only one month’s worth of emissions spread across that 60-year estimated span.

“This probably underestimates the [tournament’s] emissions by about 1.4 megatonnes — or 1.4 million tons — and that’s quite a conservative estimate,” Dufrasne told Vox, “Adding that to their existing estimate, their total footprint is closer to 5 megatonnes rather than the 3.6 megatonnes that they have announced.”

To exacerbate the issue further, the organiser’s plan to buy carbon offsets to meet this carbon neutrality pledge seems to be another fallacy. To offset the tournaments’ total emissions footprint, organisers must purchase approximately 3.6 million credits. But according to their tally they have only purchased 350,000 credits so far, from a group called the Global Carbon Council, that is not an international institution, but an organisation based in Qatar and connected to Qatari state-owned entities.

Given all these failures and Qatar’s women and LGBTQ+ rights violations and freedom of speech infringement, it is no wonder politics is piercing the neutrality veil that such tournaments have enjoyed in the past.

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