Why it is 'imperative' that 2022 be 'the last authoritarian World Cup': law student

Why it is 'imperative' that 2022 be 'the last authoritarian World Cup': law student

The 2022 FIFA World Cup, hosted by Qatar, kicked off on Sunday, November 20 with an opening game that found Ecuador defeating Qatar 2-0. And the series of World Cup matches moved along with Saudi Arabia, on November 22, pulling off an unexpected 2-1 victory over Argentina — a country known for fierce soccer players (and its long-time rivalry with Brazilian soccer).

This is the first World Cup to be hosted by a country in the Arab world. Boston-based law student Garrett Quinn, in an article published by The Bulwark on November 23, argues that having an “authoritarian” country like Qatar host this year’s World Cup sends out a bad message. And Quinn stresses that at a time when democracy is under attack around the world, only full-fledged democracies should be hosting major sports events.

“Allegations of bribery and corruption have followed the Qatari bid from the moment they were announced as hosts,” Quinn explains. “A sweeping Department of Justice investigation into the bidding process led to the 2015 indictments of nine high-ranking FIFA officials. It’s virtually impossible to avoid assuming malfeasance: How else would so many FIFA officials come to choose a country the size of Connecticut with no soccer history or suitable civic infrastructure to host the world’s greatest sporting event?”

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Some defenders of Qatar’s role in the 2022 World Cup have argued that sports and politics should remain separate — that regardless of what thinks of Qatar’s politics, there’s no reason why the Middle Eastern country shouldn’t be hosting this year’s World Cup. But Quinn disagrees.

“Qatari government sources report that its population is just over 3 million, but migrant workers make up 85 percent of that figure, according to the New York Times,” Quinn observes. “The country’s foreign labor force, drawn from across Central and Southeast Asia, works in dangerous conditions on terms that often border on indentured servitude…. Beyond its poor treatment of its population of migrant laborers, Qatar is also simply an odd setting for the World Cup’s legendary atmosphere.”

The law student/Bulwark contributor continues, “Want to crack open a cold one courtesy of Budweiser, an official FIFA sponsor? Well, good luck. Qatar’s strict interpretation of Sharia law makes drinking nearly impossible; alcohol sales were banned in World Cup stadiums just two days before the first match. And if you’re part of the LGBTQ community, don’t even think about showing it. When Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman was addressing the possibility of gay fans attending, he told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality is forbidden in his country because ‘it is damage in the mind.’”

Quinn emphasizes that “authoritarian nations” should not be “hosting the world’s biggest sporting events,” whether it’s the World Cup or the Olympic Games. And he applauds the fact that the 2026 World Cup will be “jointly hosted” by three democracies: the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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“Through 2032, the Olympic Games have been or will be awarded to countries that uphold and respect the ideals of peace, freedom and democracy,” Quinn writes. “It is even possible that the Winter Olympics will return to Salt Lake City in 2036. Hosting rights for these events should be limited to western-style democracies permanently. The Olympics and World Cup are simply too big and too important to the common life of the world to be surrendered to authoritarians bent on exploiting them. As the struggle between democracies and autocracies becomes the focus of 21st Century geopolitics, it is imperative that Qatar’s 2022 tournament be the last authoritarian World Cup.”

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