Seven new stadiums have been built in Qatar including an airport, an entire metro system, several roads, about 100 new hotels and a new city to surround the stadium hosting the final match. In this process, the country employed 35,000 foreign workers, mostly from India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Nepal, according to BBC News. An estimated 6,500 of these workers died by the February of 2021 since the country won its World Cup bid, and numbers from the death of workers are usually an underestimate as the country does not count deaths of work-related injuries and the government is known to under-report deaths amongst foreign labourers.
This is not the first instance where sporting events as big as the World Cup, and namely the means through which their venues have been created, have been controversial. Most Olympic venues in the past have been built through the displacement of impoverished communities in the cities hosting the events. Recent examples of this include a low-income housing development Clays Lane for the 2012 London Olympics and Vila Autódromo, a favela that was displaced due to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Even after hosting these events, many of these Olympic Parks become abandoned and unused. Most notably, for the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil, many of its stadiums were too expensive to maintain and, with different infrastructure projects left unfinished, some of these constructions were left abandoned altogether.
Whilst the displacement of people is a different violation of human rights compared to the lives lost in building the stadium in Qatar, they both highlight the legacy of the unethical prioritization of sporting events over human lives. Each Olympics and World Cup proves time and time again that these events have the history of being unethical in different forms. With people around the world calling for a boycott against Qatar’s World Cup, I believe it is best to start holding these organizations accountable as they have proven in the past that they do not care about human lives and demand a realistic plan to host these events in a more ethical manner that does not have a huge cost on human lives.