Major sporting events
Human rights organizations and other NGOs, media, unions have reported human rights abuses caused by the impacts of massive infrastructure projects carried out in preparation for major sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. Many of these allegations involve abuses committed by or with the complicity of private companies. But major sport events do provide also opportunities to push for change. This page features some of the main developments and coverage on human rights related to major recent or future sporting events in countries such as Azerbaijan, Brazil, Qatar, Russia and Japan, highlighting the role and responsibilities of companies operating there.
Brazil 2016 Rio Olympic Games & 2014 FIFA World Cup
Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and will host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. National and international media, unions, activists, human rights organizations, and other NGOs have shone a spotlight on abuses caused by the impacts of massive infrastructure projects that were and that are being carried out in preparation for the events. Several reports have alleged human rights abuses such as forced displacements and evictions, forced labour, discrimination, lack of consultation of affected communities, child labour, and violent repression of protesters. Many of these allegations involve abuses committed by or with the complicity of private companies.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympic games. Preparation for the Olympics is proceeding against a backdrop of social change in Japan. Once an equal society, Japan has witnessed a dramatic increase in wealth disparity and skyrocketing poverty. Over 35% of the workforce is in temporary employment, usually with lower pay and fewer (if any) benefits. The status of women in the workplace also remains problematic, with an extremely low percentage of women in managerial positions, and widespread sexual harassment. And while the Olympic bid was successful after the Prime Minister gave personal assurances that the cleanup of the 2011 nuclear disaster was “under control”, subsequent developments put in question those assurances. Tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary accommodation, and measures to hold TEPCO energy company accountable have not advanced.
The treatment of foreign labourers will be subject to particular scrutiny in the run-up to the Olympics. The Foreign Trainee Programme (now the Technical Intern Training Programme) continues to be a hotbed of abuse, and has been condemned not only by human rights actors but even by the US Department of State. Japan lacks comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation, and instances persist of private establishments refusing foreign customers. Private companies involved in the 2020 Olympics must be able to demonstrate that they are respecting human rights, not only domestically but also throughout their supply chains abroad.
Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup
In December 2010, Qatar won its bid to host the 2022 World Cup. In preparation, Qatar will spend an estimated US$100 billion on infrastructure, including a new airport, roads, hotels and stadiums. Construction has required an increase to the already large migrant-worker population, primarily from South Asian countries. The international media, unions and human rights organizations have shone a spotlight on abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. Major concerns include the exploitative “kafala” sponsorship system; lack of freedom of association / right to form unions; confiscation of passports; and harmful working and housing conditions.
Baku 2015 European Games
In June 2015, Azerbaijan will host the first European Games, in Baku. As it prepared for the games, the government has stepped up its crack-down on human rights activists. Many prisoners of conscience have been detained pending trial or jailed for criticising the record of President Ilham Aliyev and his government. One prominent activist currently in prison, Leyla Yunus, has called for a boycott of the Games over the deteriorating situation in the country.
Meanwhile, the British Chief Operating Officer for the games, Simon Clegg, has described the country as “an incredibly free society” and a “wonderful place to live”, and has said British firms have already reaped "millions of pounds" in contracts in areas like public relations and catering. Official sponsors for the games include BP, Nar Mobile, P&G, Tissot, McDonald's and Tickethour. They are likely to face mounting pressure over this sponsorship, in the light of the Azeri government's serious human rights violations.
Russia 2014 Winter Olympic Games
Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Construction in preparation for the Olympics involves the building of sports venues, hotels, roads, telecommunications systems, transportation hubs, and other major infrastructure needed to support several weeks of Olympic sports. Media, activists, human rights organizations and other NGOs have been highlighting human rights abuses related to these works, including: exploitation of workers engaged; illegal dumping of construction waste threatening residents' health & safety; evictions and displacement to make way for Olympic construction, sometimes without fair compensation; refusal to relocate people whose homes are severely damaged or affected; and pressure on and harassment of environmental and human rights activists and journalists who criticise Olympic preparations or other government policies. State-owned and private companies are involved in many of these alleged abuses.
- 📄 Latest news on major sporting events
- 📄 Brazil 2016 Rio Olympic Games and 2014 World Cup
- 📄 Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games
- 📄 Labour rights and the Qatar World Cup 2022
- 📄 Business, human rights, and the Baku 2015 European Games
- 📄 Russia: Human rights abuses related to 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi
Related stories and components
Russia: Workers of 2018 World Cup construction site protest over unpaid wages & absence of employment contracts
Author: Builing and Wood Worker's International (BWI)
"Strike at the 2018 World Cup “Luzhniki” Stadium in Moscow", 10 March 2016...
- Related in-depth areas: Major sporting events