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HRW slams IOC, FIFA over awarding of events

March 30, 2022

HRW's Germany director has criticized IOC president Thomas Bach for "pandering" to China and called out FIFA boss Gianni Infantino's decision to move to Qatar ahead of this year's World Cup.

Xi Jinping meets Thomas Bach
Human Rights Watch has heavily criticized IOC chief Thomas Bach (right)Image: Denis Balobouse/REUTERS/dpa/picture alliance

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has heavily criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world football's governing body FIFA over which countries host their major sporting events, German media reported on Wednesday.

"It has become worse. I have never seen an IOC president pander so insanely as [IOC head]Thomas Bach," HRW's Germany director Wenzel Michalski told news agency DPA, referring to the recent Winter Olympics held in Beijing.

"He offered himself up as a substitute government spokesman and participated in spreading China's lies," Michalski said.

A number of human rights concerns were raised after China was given hosting rights to the 2022 Winter Games, including Beijing's crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uyghur minority.

Olympics are politically neutral: Bach

Bach has repeatedly said that the IOC is committed to remaining politically neutral, "as it is required by the Olympic charter." 

In a press conference at last month's Winter Olympics, IOC spokesman Mark Adams stressed that "we are very, very concerned about protecting human rights within our sphere, which is within the Olympic Games."

He added, however, that, "We leave it to other organizations, the United Nations, international organizations to look at aspects outside of what is happening here."

FIFA under fire over Qatar decision

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino's decision to move to Qatar before it hosts this year's World Cup has also come under scrutiny.

"That he moves to Qatar, what kind of a signal is that?" HRW's Michalski said.

Infantino defended the awarding of the World Cup to the small Gulf nation in an interview with The Associated Press this week.

"Of course, it's not paradise,'' Infantino said. "Of course it's not perfect. Of course, there is still work to be done, but we need to stay there. We need to continue. We need to work together."

Qatar's World Cup of shame — Amnesty

Qatar is set to host FIFA's showpiece event from November 21 to December 18 but has been criticized over its human rights record and the conditions for foreign workers. 

Rights groups have alleged that thousands of workers have died constructing the facilities in order to hold the tournament. 

Over the past decade, Qatar has failed to explain up to 70% of migrant worker deaths, an Amnesty International report revealed last year.

Why is Qatar 2022 so controversial?

Amnesty has described the upcoming event as one of "shame" as migrants from Bangladesh, India and Nepal working on the refurbishment of the showcase Khalifa Stadium have been "abused and exploited – while FIFA makes huge profits."

Infantino shot back, telling AP that such criticism from human rights groups had produced changes in workers' conditions, such as the introduction of a minimum wage and the dismantling of the "kafala'' sponsorship system, which bound workers to their employers.

"The legacy in terms of human rights, workers' rights is, and has been, reached already before the World Cup,'' Infantino said. "It's important that it is here to stay and it will stay. It will stay because it is enshrined in legislation,'' he added.

Qatar 2022: Why we'll all take part after all

jsi,jcg/nm (dpa, AP)

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