Beyond the Bison: Qatar’s historic World Cup…and budget

Bri Pomonis, Sports Co-Editor

Despite Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup approaching next summer, preparations for the tournament’s 2022 round have already stolen the spotlight. Qatar is set to make history as the first Arab League member and smallest nation to host the event.

Bidding for hosting rights began in 2009, almost two years before Qatar would be granted the honors in December 2010 after edging out bids from the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Although it was the only contender ranked as “high operational risk” by FIFA evaluations, the country’s in-depth planning, economic resources, and novelty aspect earned Qatar a 14-8 win over the United States to secure the bid.

“The Arabic world deserves a World Cup,” former FIFA President Sepp Blatter said. “They have 22 countries and have not had any opportunity to organize the tournament.”

The Cup is typically held during the club off-season period of late June to July, which happen to be the hottest months in the desert nation. The tournament will be modified to a shorter 28-day period in the winter months of November and December to accommodate for temperature concerns, in addition to heavy investments in cooling technology in stadiums.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to break more than cultural boundaries. Qatar’s finance minister Ali Shareef Al-Emadi stated that this level of spending will continue for the next 3-4 years in order to complete the projects long before the first kick off. The expected grand total of $200 billion is set to make it the most expensive sporting event to date, four times more than the roughly $50 billion price tag of the runner-up Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Controversy surrounding the Qatari climate and human rights violations have sparked significant resistance to FIFA’s decision. The treatment of more than 1.2 million migrant workers has outraged human and workers’ rights organizations. A report by Amnesty International refers to working conditions as “forced labor,” and other reports have cited instances of paychecks being withheld, drinking water being denied in sweltering heat, and workers being forced to live 10 to a room.

“You work all day out in the open in extreme heat. You start work at 04:00 and work all day. There is no cold drinking water on the site, just hot water. You also have to hand over your passport on arrival, so you feel trapped, like a prisoner,” Frank, a Kenyan worker using a pseudonym, said.

What is more startling than the monetary expenditures is the cost of human life expected to follow the World Cup. Since large-scale construction commenced in 2010, there have been more than 1,200 reported deaths of migrant workers killed in work-related accidents or conditions. The death toll is expected to rise up to 4,000 workers by 2022 as the workforce approaches its expected peak of 36,000 employees. The Qatari government has repeatedly denied these figures and claims there have been no fatalities thus far.

“The evidence-based assessment of the mortality rate of migrant workers in Qatar shows that at least one worker on average per day is dying. In the absence of real measures to tackle that and an increase in 50 percent of the migrant workforce, there will be a concomitant increase in deaths,” General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow said.

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