Qatar 2022 World Cup stadiums still being built by slave labor, can’t wait to see how Fox Sports covers this

Just your daily reminder that the 2022 World Cup stadiums are being built by workers who aren’t getting paid, or as it’s better known historically, slave labor. From Amnesty International, via the Associated Press:

Mercury MENA worked on several projects in Qatar, including the stadium, the new Qatar National Library and a workers’ hospital and modern accommodation for labourers, Amnesty said. Workers told the human rights-focused non-governmental organisation that the firm owed them on average between $1,370 to $2,470, a huge sum for their families back home. It said one worker was owed nearly $25,000 after over a decade of work.

That’s right, math fans: One poor migrant worker spent more than ten years building stadiums and such, despite his employer stiffing him on $25,000 in pay, yet couldn’t leave because Qatari law requires an employer-signed “exit permit” before they can go home. This is the year 2018.

You can read the full Amnesty report here. Or just crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head, both are acceptable responses.

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Friday roundup: Austin MLS vote, Rays demand $650m in subsidies, Islanders renderings, more!

I’m busy trying to figure out whether Congress is really going to rewrite the tax code to give a couple of trillion dollars to rich people or will melt down at the last second like it did with healthcare repeal, so this’ll be in superbrief mode this morning:

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Amnesty International says Qatar World Cup “built on human rights abuses,” must be stopped

We already knew that construction workers on Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadium were dying at a frightening rate and held in the country under slave-like conditions, but we didn’t have, say, an Amnesty International report outright comparing conditions to slavery. Until now:

Rights group Amnesty International has accused Qatar of using forced labour at a flagship World Cup 2022 stadium.

Amnesty says workers at Khalifa International Stadium are forced to live in squalid accommodation, pay huge recruitment fees and have had wages withheld and passports confiscated.

It also accuses Fifa of “failing almost completely” to stop the tournament being “built on human rights abuses”.


You can download the Amnesty report, “The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game,” here; it’s long and detailed, so let me just cite two excerpts:

Amnesty International interviewed 132 of the men working on Khalifa Stadium. When Amnesty met them they were living in cramped and unhygenic labour camps. Many described how they had paid large sums of money and taken on debt in their home country in order to get a job in Qatar but were now being paid less than they had been promised. All of the men had their passports confiscated by their employers and some were denied an exit permit when they wanted to return home. In some cases the treatment amounted to forced labour.


“My life here is like a prison. The work is dif cult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I rst complained about my situation, soon after arriving in Qatar, the manager said ‘if you [want to] complain you can but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar be quiet and keep working’. Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and continue working.” —Deepak, metalworker on Khalifa International Stadium, a FIFA 2022 World Cup venue, speaking in May 2015

This is a big enough deal that even Al Jazeera, which is actually owned by members of the Qatari government, felt obligated to cover it. Meanwhile, FIFA, which granted Qatar the 2022 tournament after massive bribery in the bidding, continues to insist that it won’t move the cup to another nation that’s less slavey. This is going to get really ugly — not that pretty much all big sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics don’t get really ugly, and usually everyone forgets about it as soon as there’s some games to watch, but this seems like it might actually be the exception, maybe.

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Qatar killing World Cup workers at record pace, FIFA bribery arrests mean someone may actually notice

Now that FIFA officials are getting arrested left and right following a three-year corruption probe by the FBI, the Washington Post has taken the opportunity to publish a chart comparing worker deaths in Qatar during construction of 2022 World Cup stadiums to worker deaths in other nations’ preparations for World Cups and Olympics. And while the numbers aren’t completely exact — there’s some guesswork involved, and it’s not possible to determine exactly how many of these deaths were on World Cup projects — still, holy crap:

imrs.phpThat’s an insane body count among the workers that Deadspin has taken to calling (entirely accurately) “FIFA slaves,” and is only likely to increase calls for a boycott of the Qatar World Cup, the ouster of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the reassignment of the 2022 World Cup (and maybe the 2018 World Cup currently slated for Russia) to another nation, or all of the above. Not that any of those are exactly likely, but they’re a hell of a lot more likely than they were before the concierge at a five-star Zurich hotel called upstairs to say, “We’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.”

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Entire world wakes up, realizes World Cup and Olympics are stupid

I don’t know exactly what tipping point we reached last week, but it appears that the entire planet came to a mass realization that mega-events like the World Cup and the Olympics, far from being massive revenue generators for host cities, are gigantic money pits that any public official should run screaming from as fast as possible. Witness, all within the past seven days:

No, it doesn’t mean that the World Cup and Olympics are now defunct, and will be replaced by one of those sporting events that involves everyone batting a giant ball into the air. But suddenly lots and lots of people are saying aloud that these mega-events tend toward being terrible catastrophes for the locales tabbed to host them, which isn’t a new concept, but isn’t usually discussed quite so widely. Though, of course, a few months ago people were actually interested in Russian human rights abuses against lesbians and gays, until they actually started playing sports and there was curling to watch, so maybe this is just the usual “the games haven’t started, we’re bored and have nothing to report on” run-up that will be completely forgotten later on.

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Qatar takes aim at World Cup record for killing migrant workers

Remember that human rights group charging that 4,000 workers will end up dying while building Qatar’s 2022 World Cup facilities? Now there’s a new report that says just in the last two years, 964 migrant workers have died in construction projects —and the new report is from the Qatari government itself:

The report by the international law firm DLA Piper calls for changes to the much-criticised kafala system that ties workers to their employers. It also contains the Qatari government’s own figure on the numbers of migrants who have died on its soil: 964 from Nepal, India and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013. In all, 246 died from “sudden cardiac death” in 2012, the report said, 35 died in falls and 28 committed suicide.

Note that that’s not only on World Cup facilities, but given that there are still eight years to go before 2022, that’s plenty of time to wrack up 4,000 soccer-specific deaths. And anyway, as Deadspin puts it:

A country that needs an independent law firm to tell it that hey, maybe it’s worth looking into why workers are just dropping dead from heart attacks for seemingly no reason is not one that should be hosting the World Cup.

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MSG’s new “drop beers on other fans” seats, and other stadium news

After a long weekend thanks to the celebrations for the father of the transatlantic slave trade, I’m facing a busy work day and a pile of small stadium news items that I don’t want you guys to miss. So: bullet points it is!

  • The “sky bridges” in the renovated Madison Square Garden turn out just to be a new deck of seats suspended from the ceiling. Also, pretty obtrusive to fans sitting in the back rows of what used to be the blue seats. And there’s still the low railings that will allow fans to drop beers on the heads of those in the pricey seats below them. A win-win-win!
  • Some Minnesota Vikings fans say that personal seat licenses at the new stadium will make them give up their season tickets; others say they’ll just put off buying a new boat.
  • San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee compared a new San Francisco Warriors arena to the Statue of Liberty, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler has brought out the sarcasm stick.
  • Qatar’s plan for hosting the 2022 World Cup will cost an estimated $200 billion, including building a stadium for the final in a city that doesn’t exist yet. Also, an estimated 4,000 migrant workers will likely die building all this stuff. Maybe that Columbus guy isn’t sounding so bad by comparison.
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Brazilian judge suggests turning World Cup stadium into prison facility

Remember how Brazil is building $3.3 billion in stadiums for next year’s World Cup, including some in cities that don’t even have soccer teams? Apparently one of them, a $275 million facility in the city of Manaus, only has four World Cup matches total scheduled, after which nobody knows what to do with it — or nobody did know, until a Brazilian judge had a brainstorm:

Alvaro Corado, spokesman for the Amazonas state court system, told The Associated Press Tuesday that Judge Sabino Marques had proposed a novel idea.

“He would, perhaps, suggest to the government of the state of Amazonas that the stadium be used as a processing center for prisoners after the World Cup,” Corado said, quoting Marques.

Yes, a “novel idea.” Because that’s not going to bring up any uncomfortable associations at all.

Anyway, it’s just a suggestion, but one that helps indicate what a train wreck the 2014 World Cup is shaping up to be. Though at least eight years later Brazil will be able to point at the 2022 World Cup and say that at least its white elephant stadiums weren’t built by indentured servants.

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