FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, expressed concern over reports alleging human rights violations in Qatar. As the tiny Gulf state prepares to host the World Cup in 2022, media outlets have published accusations of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers. Dozens of workers have died in workplace accidents, and access to water is limited on construction sites.
FIFA’s 2010 decision to allow Qatar to host the second largest international sporting event surprises many people. Along with the 120-degree heat that will likely accompany the games, human trafficking and forced labor are significant problems in the Arab nation. Human Rights Watch released a report in 2012 noting migrant workers, mostly from Southern Asia, face forced labor and abuse in Qatar.
“More than 4,000 workers risk losing their life over the next seven years as construction for World Cup facilities gets under way if no action is taken to give migrant workers’ rights.” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “The annual death toll among those working on building sites could rise to 600 a year—almost a dozen a week—unless the Doha government makes urgent reforms.”
In 2010, Qatar’s bid committee presented their request to host the World Cup as “an opportunity for greater understanding and unity between the Arab and western worlds.”
The Cuban government has lifted the ban forbidding its athletes from playing for foreign professional teams. The decision could have implications for Major League Baseball, although the Cold War–era trade embargo between the United States and Cuba still stands. In the 2013 season, MLB rosters included 21 native Cuban players, almost all of whom defected from their homeland to sign with American teams.
Cuban players can now negotiate and sign contracts with Asian and European teams, but must receive a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control before talking with an MLB team. Players must prove residency outside of Cuba before they will be granted the license.
Cuba is still a police state, one that athletes leave to gain freedom and money. While athlete salaries are slowly rising in Cuba, baseball players only make an estimated $41 a month with small bonuses for the best players. Meanwhile, in America, Cuban natives Yoenis Cespedes ($36 million), Aroldis Chapman ($30.2 million), and Yasiel Puig ($42 million) are paid small fortunes for their talent on the baseball field. —Z.A.
“On your own, you’re nothing,” said Oracle Team USA skipper James Spithill after the United States rallied to defeat New Zealand in the 34th America’s Cup, completing one of the greatest comebacks in yacht racing’s 162-year history: “But when you’ve got a team like this around you, they can make you look great.”
Leading 8-1, Emirates Team New Zealand needed just one final victory to clinch the Cup, but Oracle Team USA came back to win eight consecutive races in San Francisco Bay. Competitors this year could use AC72-class catamarans, which can sail at 50 mph with underwater coils that lift the vessel out of the water. The AC72s are among the most expensive and dangerous sailboats ever built.
The American team got off to a bad start after officials penalized it 2 points for cheating during a 2012 America’s World Cup Series warm-up event by placing illegal weights in their ship. The penalty forced Team Oracle to win 11 races to capture the Cup, instead of the nine usually needed. Team Oracle credited the comeback to experimentation with sailing tactics and hard work by the crew. —Z.A.