Skyline of Doha, the capital city of Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup accused of sportwashing - Photo by Alex Sergeev, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Skyline of Doha, the capital city of Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, widely accused of Sportwashing – Photo by Alex Sergeev, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Architecture – All that glitters is not gold, recites the proverb. According to reports, thousands of migrant workers died in the construction sites of the sparkling 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar stadiums and infrastructure projects. Most of those deaths still remain un-investigated, says Amnesty International. On top of that, organisers’ carbon-neutral claims ‘are simply not credible,’ say the non-profit advocacy group Carbon Market Watch. Does it still glitter that much?


The Guardian reported that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have died in the construction sites of the World Cup infrastructure projects. The total death toll is supposed to be significantly higher as figures do not include deaths from several countries such as The Philippines and Kenya that sent large numbers of workers. 

In addition to the stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels, and a new city hosting the final match.

Amnesty International released a report accusing Qatari authorities of having failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade. “‘Meaningless’ death certificates routinely say heart or respiratory failure was the cause of death.” Says Amnesty International UK’s Steve Cockburn. “Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world – not only can it afford to do far better, but it also has an obligation to do so.”

In an interview with Dezeen, Amnesty International UK Economic Relations Programme Director Peter Frankental said that World Cup stadium architects should be “prepared to use their voice to draw attention to the human rights violations occurring.” According to Dezeen, Frankental believes that the architecture studios that designed the stadiums are not “directly contributing” to violations and may have little power to stop them from occurring. The majority of the architecture studios involved in the design phases were not retained to oversee the buildings’ construction.

Denmark national team's football kits by Humnel - Image via IG, follow by @hummelsports.

Denmark national team’s football kits by Hummel – Image via IG, follow by @hummelsports.

Sports brand Hummel toned-down colours and branding of the Danish national team’s football kits as a protest against Qatar and its human rights record. “While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives. We wish to make a statement about Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of the migrant workers that have built the country’s World Cup stadiums,” said Hummel.


Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar - Photo by GT Travel, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar – Photo by GT Travel, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Host country Qatar and football’s governing body FIFA touted the 2022 World Cup as the first-ever carbon-neutral tournament in World Cup history. But non-profit advocacy group Carbon Market Watch released a report casting severe doubt on this claim. “It’s simply not credible,” says Carbon Market Watch’s Gilles Dufrasne, the report’s author.

Our research reveals that the calculations used to make the event appear to be carbon neutral ignore some major sources of emissions, and the credits currently being purchased to offset them have a low level of environmental integrity, meaning they are unlikely to benefit the climate.”