Part of the purpose of the Olympics and the World Cup is to pit countries against each other in intense but friendly competition. But more importantly, the games bring the nations of the world together in celebration.
However, not all have reason to celebrate. Earlier today, the Guardian revealed that Qatar's preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup are plagued with human rights violations. This is not an isolated event. The people of Brazil also face human rights concerns in light of preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. While athletes and patriots around the world are busy anticipating the games, immigrants and the poor are busy being exploited.
According to the investigation, the abuses in Qatar amount to modern-day slavery. This summer alone, almost one Nepalese immigrant has died each day constructing the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. The workers are expected to work long hours in the sun without water, despite Qatar's labor laws which limit the hours one can work in Qatar's extreme heat and which mandate that water be provided to workers.
As if deadly working conditions weren't bad enough, employers withhold salaries as a means of preventing the workers from leaving. Additionally, employers confiscate passports from their immigrant workers — which comprise more than 90% of Qatar's labor force — and refuse to issue ID cards in order to exploit the immigrant status of the laborers. Without their passports or ID Cards, immigrants effectively become undocumented. That subjects them to arrest and renders them ineligible for governmental protection. Furthermore, this leaves them unable to find work elsewhere, and essentially forces them to stay with the exploitative employer.
Violations of human rights have also been reported in Brazil as the country prepares for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Several strikes arose in cities around Brazil, demanding higher wages, benefits, and working conditions. Furthermore, the construction of stadiums and infrastructure to accommodate the increased tourism that accompanies the games displaces poor communities that have nowhere to go. In one city alone, Fortaleza, more than 15,000 families were estimated to be affected.
These violations were not unexpected. The Guardian predicted that migrant workers would be exploited in Qatar in January. Furthermore, these violations have not continued unnoticed. Organizations have called for an improvement of working conditions in Brazil. Despite this, the abuses continue. Violating human rights is, in itself, inexcusable. However, violating human rights in the name of bringing the world together in celebration is particularly obscene. Until we figure out how to host the games without exploiting immigrants and the poor, there is no reason to celebrate.