QATAR: Bring It On, Critics

ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES- Immune to accusations of bribery, human rights abuses, and having really hot weather, Qatar intends to host the 2022 World Cup as planned, come what may. Such immunity can make anyone cocky, and at a New York Times art conference in Doha, the Emir’s sister Sheikha Al Mayassa claimed that criticism only makes the tournament organizers even more determined. “The more the press attacks Qatar for hosting the World Cup, the more excited we are to host an amazing World Cup.”

The press attacks will come, and the next aggressor is Amnesty International. The human rights advocacy group announced that it will release a new report on the exploitation of migrant workers on March 31, 2016. The report will feature interviews with over 200 workers and will document the conditions they face.

However, the report comes after the newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed that the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Qatar tournament in 2022 will go ahead as planned, giving the Qatari organizers another reason to believe they are immune and that their plans will go on uninterrupted. Meanwhile, Swiss prosecutors are investigating the bidding process for both tournaments.

Qatar’s attitude is best exemplified by how they handled one of their minor controversies: the Al Wakrah stadium. Critics have argued that the stadium resembles a vagina and Sheikha Al Mayassa said that while many did not like the design, the organizers did, so they decided to build it anyway. The Al Wakrah was one of the first of the proposed World Cup stadiums to go under construction. Al Mayassa argued that it was a matter of taste; one that they believe will pay off.

Last year, British journalists from The Sunday Times, Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, published The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup, which confirmed suspicions on the corrupt bidding process for 2022 World Cup. In the following months, FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned and high-ranking FIFA officials were arrested but it was part of a US Justice Department investigation and not influenced by the book. The investigation targeted North American, South American, and European officials and no one from Qatar has faced serious consequences such as indictment.

The human rights reform that Amnesty International is looking for probably has a better chance at FIFA. Harvard professor John Ruggie is overseeing a review of FIFA’s Human Rights policies and will give his recommendation this month. FIFA will implement the new policies in their bidding process if they agree. Since it affects future bidding procedures, it will not apply to current tournaments. As far as Qatar is concerned, the game is still theirs to win.




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