TIME Qatar

Two-Speed Labor System in Qatar for 2022 World Cup

Qatar Soccer Labor Shame
In this photo taken on Nov. 9, 2014, construction work is under way at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Rob Harris—AP

It's not just the construction workers who are experiencing terrible working conditions

(DOHA, QATAR) — Men crammed together, dozens to a room, on bunk beds so close they can reach over and shake hands.

Qatar, on paper at least, has rules that forbid such uncomfortable conditions for its massive workforce of migrant laborers. Yet this is how the government-owned transport company, which the Gulf nation will use to ferry visitors around the 2022 World Cup, has housed some of its workers.

As Qatar employs legions of migrants to build stadiums and other works for the football showcase, widespread labor abuses documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other critics have blackened its name and $160 billion preparations.

Hundreds of worker deaths, many apparently from cardiac arrests, have also fueled concerns that laborers are being overworked in desert conditions and shoddily treated. Reporting this April on a fact-finding mission, the U.N’s special adviser on migrants’ rights, Francois Crepeau, cited “anecdotal evidence that too many of these mostly young men return home in a coffin.”

Problems, The Associated Press found, aren’t limited to the construction sector.

Accommodation for drivers of buses and of Qatar’s distinctive turquoise taxis is a walled-off compound in the bleak industrial zone of Doha, the capital. Dust-covered cadavers of burned-out buses and broken taxis abandoned on surrounding wasteland make the luxury malls and gleaming towers of central Doha seem far away.

The compound walls and flag over the main gate bear the name Mowasalat. The transporter plans to have 7,000 taxis on the roads by the World Cup.

In one dormitory block, in what drivers said was meant to be a recreation room for table tennis and other pastimes, the AP saw two dozen bunk beds in three tight lines.

The arrangements were apparently meant to be only temporary, but drivers said they had lived like this for months. Without lockers, they hung clothes and towels from bed frames. In a corner, one man gave another a shave. Drivers said around 30 of them were housed there and that other blocks in the compound which the AP didn’t visit had similarly crowded rooms.

Yet a 2005 ministerial decree said workers should not be housed more than four to a room or be made to sleep in bunks.

In its company brochure, Mowasalat speaks of “excellent housing facilities” for employees. But even a standard dormitory room the AP saw slept six, also on bunks. Drivers said the close living is physically and morally wearing, with rest difficult and quarrels easy.

Mowasalat did not reply to emailed questions. But it did appear to thin out numbers in the supposed “recreation” rooms after the AP showed a photo of the cramped conditions to Mowasalat executives. Drivers subsequently reached by phone said some of them were moved to other rooms. One said he was transferred from a room with 43 drivers, where he spent two months, to another with 16, still on bunks.

“Thanks for highlighting our plight to some Mowasalat management,” another driver wrote by email to the AP. “Since you raised the mat(t)er they have slightly decongested the common room. Still it is no decent way for workers to live but it’s a step forward.”

Qatar’s World Cup organizers are trying to limit the reputational damage of labor abuses by treating their own workers better than the norm.

Officials for the Supreme Committee putting together the World Cup gave the AP a tour of housing for stadium builders from Southeast Asia. They sleep three to a room, some with en-suite bathrooms, and on their own beds, not bunks, with curtains for additional privacy. They even have a pool. In the free canteen, workers heaped their plates with rice, flatbreads and curries.

In his consulting room with the sign “WE ARE HERE FOR YOU” on one wall, the camp’s jovial doctor said the workers’ health problems are generally no more serious than allergic coughs and sniffles from working in dust and sand, skin itches from sweating, and the aches, pains, sprains and scrapes of manual labor.

World Cup workers are also covered by special regulations which lay out their “right to be treated in a manner that ensures at all times their wellbeing, health, safety and security” and detail how contractors must ethically recruit, promptly pay, and decently house them.

The Supreme Committee’s power to award tournament-related contracts also gives it leverage to force improvements.

“I have had to make the phone call several times to contractors to say ‘Sorry mate, we’ve been to your camp. We don’t think you’re treating your people the way we want anyone on our sites to be treated, so you’re out of the running, I can’t work with you,'” said Tamim el-Abed, project manager of Lusail Stadium earmarked for the 2022 opening game and final.

“They scrabble around trying to pull together a superficial Band-Aid response. We see through that,” he said. “Sometimes they do a genuine turn-around and they improve their facilities.”

“It’s about culture change,” he said.

However, to critics, singling out World Cup workers for better treatment smacks of double standards. They want deeper, across-the-board reforms for all.

Even at the stadium builders’ facility, not all are treated equally. A Kenyan security guard there complained to the AP that six sleep in his small room, on bunks. Supreme Committee officials said the man isn’t directly employed by them but by a subcontractor.

“Putting in place a two-tier labor system, which is what they are talking about, is not much of a legacy,” said Nicholas McGeehan, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“I don’t think it’s something that we should accept,” McGeehan said. “It’s OK to protect World Cup workers but it’s not OK to protect, what, transport workers? Taxi drivers? Cleaners? Do they not deserve the same?”

TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Ethics Investigator Quits Over the Handling of His World Cup Probe

FIFA's Michael Garcia photographed during a press conference at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday, 27. July 2012 Walter Bieri—Keystone/AP

"My role in this process is at an end," says Michael Garcia

FIFA’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has resigned in protest over the handling of his report on the controversial bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Garcia said FIFA’s 42-page summary of his 430-page report was “erroneous.” He quit after the world soccer governing body rejected his complaint, the BBC reports.

“It is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end,” he said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: “I am surprised by Mr Garcia’s decision. The work of the ethics committee will nonetheless continue.”

Garcia’s report probed alleged corruption in the designation of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022. His resignation adds to the turmoil surrounding the organization.

“We wanted all transparency but this is a new failure for FIFA,” said Michel Platini, president of the governing body of European soccer, UEFA.

FIFA said in a statement that the acting chairman of the ethics committee would take Garcia’s place, pending the election of a successor.

[BBC]

TIME Soccer

Pelé Discharged From Hospital Following Kidney Surgery

The 74-year-old soccer star says he's ready for the Olympics

Soccer legend Pelé quipped that he may still be ready to take to the field, after he was released from the hospital following a procedure to remove kidney stones.

The 74-year-old Brazilian star had contracted an infection during the operation and was placed in semi-intensive care, but he received his own room on Saturday and left the hospital in São Paulo Tuesday, the Guardian reports.

“It is gratifying and good to know that I had the support of so many people around the world who were hoping the situation improved,” he said at a press conference, according to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “Now I am preparing for the Olympics!”

The soccer star underwent haemodialysis after suffering a urinary tract infection.Pelé had one of his kidneys removed when he was still a professional athlete.

[The Guardian]

TIME World Cup

Report: Russia’s World Cup Kickbacks Included Picasso Painting

FIFA president Joseph Blatter graces  the ground breaking ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III
FIFA president Joseph Blatter delivers his speech prior to the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III for the national teams' training center at the San Lazaro Leisure and Business Park in Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 30, 2014. Dennis M. Sabangan—EPA

Insiders allege a system of kickbacks helped countries secure bids to host the game

World Cup officials accepted valuable works of art from Russia as it was bidding to host the 2018 soccer tournament, according to a new report published Monday.

The dossier of findings, which was submitted by investigative reporters at a British newspaper to a UK Parliamentary committee, includes allegations that Russia’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2018 was bolstered by a handout of a Picasso painting to FIFA executive member Michel Platini. Belgian executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe also allegedly accepted a valuable painting.

Investigative reporters for British newspaper the Sunday Times gathered allegations by unnamed whistleblowers, including a British intelligence agent who reportedly spied on rival countries’ bids to host the World Cup tournament. The dossier also alleges that Russia and Qatar traded votes for their successful bids as part of a gas deal.

Platini dismissed the allegations as “total fabrications,” CNN reports, while D’Hooghe characterized the painting given to him as “absolutely ugly,” and insisted it had no bearing on his vote, which he said did not go in favor of Russia.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee accepted the dossier as part of an ongoing investigation into the World Cup bidding process.

TIME

Sony Joins Emirates in Ending Its World Cup Sponsorship

Pressure grows on FIFA

Sony is to end its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup against the background of a corruption scandal over the awarding of the next two tournaments to Qatar and Russia, according to a report published Tuesday.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal said that the company had decided not to renew its contract as one of six “official partners” of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, when it expires at the end of this year. The WSJ said the eight-year contract was worth 33 billion yen ($280 million).

The news is further evidence of the price FIFA is paying for its failure to clear up accusations of corruption in the tenders to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The Japanese consumer electronics giant is the second major sponsor to walk away from one of the world’s biggest sporting events within weeks, following Emirates Airlines.

Earlier this month, FIFA refused to publish in full a report by U.S. lawyer Michael J. Garcia into the allegations. Instead, it released selected excerpts of the report, clearing itself of any wrongdoing. Garcia immediately responded that it had materially misrepresented his findings. FIFA’s conclusions effectively ended any prospect of re-staging the tenders.

The incident reignited outrage in Europe’s powerful national soccer associations and leagues at the shortcomings of FIFA’s management, and specifically at its Swiss head, Sepp Blatter.

The German soccer league, one of many which fears that its seasons will be disrupted by the need to move the Qatar tournament away from its traditional summer slot, has called for a European boycott of the tournaments in protest at the alleged cover-up.

In response to the uproar, FIFA later said it had passed the report to another internal committee and to the Swiss attorney-general, saying that “there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.”

Sony hasn’t confirmed the report but had earlier called on FIFA to be thorough and transparent in investigating the allegations.

A FIFA spokesman said: “The existing contract with Sony runs until 31 December 2014 and we are currently in discussions with the brand.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Soccer

FIFA Alleges Misconduct in World Cup Selection

The organization has faced allegations of bribery in previous years

FIFA filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland Tuesday against unnamed individuals, alleging “international transfers of assets” that “merit examination” in connection with the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The international soccer organization, now in the accuser seat, has in the past faced accusations of a lack of transparency and corrupt practices in choosing World Cup venues.

“There are indications of potential illegal or irregular conduct in certain areas, which must now be followed up both internally by FIFA and by the relevant national criminal prosecution authorities,” said Hans-Joachim Eckert, co-chair of FIFA’s ethics committee, in a question and answer.

The complaint follows the completion of an internal investigation into the selection processes. While the report has not been released in its entirety, Eckert admitted that it contained some evidence of wrongdoing.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: From the FIFA Probe to Kim Kardashian’s Assets

Here are four of the biggest stories for the second week of November

This week, a number of media reports suggested President Barack Obama is poised to unilaterally overhaul the U.S. immigration policy, in a move that could allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

The European Space Agency’s Philae probe became the first to land on a comet. The probe landed one kilometer away from its target site, but may run out of energy soon due to lack of sunlight.

FIFA ruled that Qatar will still host the 2022 World Cup, despite allegations it had paid officials to campaign for the bid back in 2010.

And Kim Kardashian posed nude for the cover of Paper magazine, which said its goal was to “Break the Internet.”

TIME Soccer

Even Soccer Fans Don’t Recognize Clint Dempsey Without a Jersey

The U.S. men's soccer team captain is apparently hard to spot when not playing

Soccer player Clint Dempsey, who captained the U.S. Men’s National Team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, may have won the adoration of American fans on the field, but off the green he appears to be harder to spot. In fact, even soccer fans seem to have trouble recognizing America’s star soccer player out of uniform.

TIME Soccer

Official Says Qatar Is Too Hot to Host World Cup

FBL-WC2014-QAT-FIFA-TROPHY
A Qatari official stands near the FIFA World Cup trophy following its arrival in Doha, on Dec. 12, 2013. Karim Jaafar—AFP/Getty Images

"Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions"

Qatar likely will not be hosting the 2022 World Cup, a top FIFA official said Monday. Why? The country is too hot.

“Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions,” Reuters reports FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger saying. “I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar.”

Qatar leaders have said they will equip stadiums, fan zones, and training areas with advanced cooling systems during the games, but Zwanziger said it won’t be enough.

“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said.

A Qatari official quickly pushed back in a statement.

“Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, despite comments of FIFA Executive Committee member Dr. Zwanziger, which reflect his personal opinion and not that of FIFA,” the official said. “The only question now is WHEN, not IF. Summer or winter, we will be ready. We have proven that a FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the summer is possible with state-of-the-art cooling technology. We have demonstrated that our cooling works in outdoor areas beyond stadiums.”

[Reuters]

TIME

Cristiano Ronaldo Stars in Truly Bizarre Japanese Commercial for a Facial Fitness Tool

Guaranteed to make your smile look just like his!

When Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t showing off his well-toned muscles after winning a soccer game, he’s showing off a gadget meant to help people boast his winning smile.

The Portuguese footballer recently appeared in a Japanese advertisement for an unusual little product called Pao Facial Fitness. It requires users to bite down on a winged contraption and then vigorously nod their heads in an attempt to build up cheek strength. Based on the commercial, it seems that users are also encouraged to dance around.

If you don’t want to buy one of these, don’t worry: just watching the video is likely to make you smile so hard that you’ll get a facial workout for free!

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