Paris points to environmental concerns and Qatar’s human-rights record in joining giant-screen boycott of World Cup next month

Giant screens air the Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France at a “fan zone” erected in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
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PARIS (AP) — Paris will not broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in public fan zones amid concerns over violations of the human rights of migrant workers and the environmental impact of the tournament in Qatar.

It follows similar moves by other French cities, even as France enters the World Cup as the defending champion, having topped Croatia in the final of the 2018 tournament, hosted by Russia. Some other European teams or federations are also looking at ways to protest.

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Pierre Rabadan, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of sports, told reporters in the French capital that the decision against public broadcasting of matches is due to “the conditions of the organization of this World Cup, both on the environmental and social level.”

He said in an interview with France Blue Paris that “air-conditioned stadiums” and the “conditions in which these facilities have been built are to be questioned.”

Rabadan stressed that Paris is not boycotting the soccer tournament, but explained that Qatar’s “model of staging big events goes against what [Paris] wants to organize [as host of the 2024 Olympics].”

The move comes despite the city’s big-spending football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments.

“We have very constructive relations with the club and its entourage, yet it doesn’t prevent us to say when we disagree,” Rabadan said.

Denmark is staging its own protest: Its team jerseys at the World Cup will include a black option to honor migrant workers who died during construction work for the tournament. And several European soccer federations want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games to campaign against discrimination.

A growing number of French cities are refusing to erect screens to broadcast World Cup matches to protest Qatar’s human-rights record.

The mayor of Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, cited allegations of rights abuses and exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar as the reason for canceling public broadcasts of the World Cup.

“It’s impossible for us to ignore the many warnings of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers by nongovernmental organizations,” Jeanne Barseghian said in a statement. “We cannot condone these abuses, we cannot turn a blind eye when human rights are violated.”

And then, there’s the impact on the environment, Barseghian said. “While climate change is a palpable reality, with fires and droughts and other disaster, organizing a soccer tournament in the desert defies common sense and amounts to an ecological disaster,” she said.

Arnaud Deslandes, a deputy mayor of Lille, said that by canceling public viewing of matches, the northern city wanted to send a message to FIFA about the irreparable damage of the Qatar tournament to the environment.

“We want to show FIFA that money is not everything,” Deslandes told the Associated Press in an interview.

As for residents’ reactions to the city’s decision, he added: “I have yet to meet a person in Lille who was disappointed by our decision.”

The gas-rich emirate has been fiercely criticized in the past decade for its treatment of migrant workers, mostly from south Asia, who were needed to build tens of billions of dollars’ worth of stadiums, metro lines, roads and hotels.

Qatar has been equally fierce in denying accusations of human-rights abuses, and has repeatedly rejected allegations that the safety and health of 30,000 workers who built the World Cup infrastructure have been jeopardized.

Qatar has also said that it is mindful of environmental concerns and has committed to offsetting some of the carbon emissions from the World Cup events through creating new green spaces irrigated with recycled water and building alternative-energy projects.

Environmental activists across France have supported the cancellation of public broadcasting in fan zones because outdoor viewing of the Nov. 20–Dec. 19 tournament would use energy that the country has been storing for winter.

In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, authorities cited concerns with the energy cost associated with outdoor public broadcasts in the winter cold. The French government is calling for a sharp 10% reduction in the country’s energy use to avoid the risk of rationing this winter amid tensions with supplier Russia over the war in Ukraine.

“We are trying hard to save energy,” Bordeaux mayor Pierre Hurmic told the AP. He added: “It doesn’t make sense to roll out the red carpet to such a costly event in terms of energy and the environmental impact.”


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