Why Qatar Is a Controversial Venue for 2022 World Cup 


Ever since Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, it has been a contentious choice. The scorching climate of the Persian Gulf country made it impossible to hold the competition during its usual summer window, so it’s been moved to November and December – right when the national leagues are in full swing. Without their star players, national competitions have to be suspended for up to six weeks. It continues to explore how Qatar, a small nation of 3 million with no football pedigree, managed to win a secret ballot to become the host country. Human rights groups have denounced the treatment of foreign workers who are building the stadiums and housing for visiting fans. The government says the event is a catalyst for improving its labor laws.

1. Why was the bidding process controversial?

Allegations of vote-buying have circulated since 2010, when the Football Association FIFA awarded Russia and Qatar the rights to back-to-back World Cups. Two members of the 24-member FIFA Executive Committee that selects the hosts were suspended ahead of the 2010 election after they were filmed offering their support in cash. An investigation into the award of the 2022 tournament continues in France. Indictments were also filed in the US in 2020, accusing several officials of receiving payments in support of the Qatar bid. Her trial is scheduled to begin in January in federal court in New York. Qatar refuses to pay anyone for hosting rights. FIFA said holding the event in the country is in line with its goal of expanding football into new regions.

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2. What’s in Qatar for this?

Qatar is betting the tournament will help modernize its image and make it a tourism and business destination on par with regional rivals Dubai. The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world, with the last one taking place in Russia in 2018 and attracting 3.6 billion television and online viewers. Bloomberg Intelligence estimated that Qatar would complete $300 billion worth of infrastructure projects before the opening game on November 20. That looks like a lot for a country smaller than Connecticut, but Qatar is one of the wealthiest nations in the world thanks to vast natural gas reserves. Organizers expect the event to add $17 billion to the economy, about 10% of gross domestic product in 2021.

3. Why the outcry about migrant workers?

Media reports contain detailed cases of workers working on the new stadiums and other infrastructure being subjected to inhumane treatment and unsafe working conditions. Amnesty International accused the government of not adequately investigating the deaths of many migrant workers. The World Cup preparations have shed light on the Gulf region’s “kafala” (sponsorship) system, under which workers need their employer’s permission to change jobs, return home or even open a bank account. In 2019, the United Nations attacked Qatar over racial discrimination, saying a worker’s nationality plays an “overwhelming role” in the way they are treated.

4. What does the government say?

The government, while denying allegations that workers are being mistreated, has built some new shelters and promised to improve security. Qatar introduced new labor laws in 2020 that aim to guarantee a minimum wage and facilitate job relocation to dismantle the kafala system. Rules introduced in 2021 further restricted the hours workers could toil outside in the summer heat. On paper at least, the reforms make Qatar’s labor laws the most worker-friendly in the Gulf region. Human rights groups acknowledge that working conditions have improved in recent years, but continue to publish reports documenting unpaid wages, illegal recruitment fees and poor enforcement of labor regulations.

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5. Is Qatar a free country?

Qatar is ruled by its Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who controls the government and the judiciary. Political parties are banned and the majority of the population are non-citizens with few civil or political rights. Homosexuality is officially illegal, although penalties are rarely enforced. While FIFA rules dictate that stadiums can promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a senior security official warned during the event that rainbow flags could be taken away from fans to protect them from attacks. In March 2021, Human Rights Watch released a report calling on Qatar to reform the male guardianship system, a loose set of practices and rules that condition many women’s personal decisions to the consent of a male family member.

6. Will there be boycotts?

Players and teams in Norway and fans in Denmark called for a boycott, but football authorities in participating countries ultimately rejected the idea. Amnesty and other groups said enforcement of Qatar’s labor reforms had fallen short, but note that the changes were positive overall and pushed back the idea of ​​a stay-out. Sportswear manufacturer Hummel said it changed its design for the Danish national team’s uniforms because the brand “doesn’t want to be visible during a tournament that has claimed the lives of thousands of people”. The mayors of Paris and several other French cities have announced that they will not set up giant screens and zones for fans to watch the tournament. Some linked the decision to Qatar’s poor human rights record, while others cited financial reasons, energy costs and the winter climate.

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7. How will it be for the fans?

The weather is supposed to be quite pleasant. The average mid-November high is 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), and the heat tends to dissipate in December. Nonetheless, some of the tournament’s eight outdoor stadiums are equipped with air conditioning – an additional challenge to FIFA’s promise to make this World Cup carbon neutral. The limited number of hotels in Qatar means some fans will be encouraged to stay in other cities in the region and fly to the games.

8. How should fans behave in Qatar?

The country’s dress code reflects its Muslim traditions. While there is flexibility in five-star hotels, shopping malls and most public spaces require women and men to cover their bodies from shoulders to knees. Public displays of affection are undesirable; even holding hands is rare. With a handful of exceptions, alcohol is restricted to restaurants attached to high-end hotels, although World Cup organizers have said tourists can drink in designated fan zones.

For more stories like this, visit bloomberg.com


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