PARIS– Paris will not broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in public fan zones amid concerns over violations of migrant workers’ rights and the tournament’s environmental impact in Qatar.
It follows similar steps taken by other French cities, although France are lining up as the defending champions.
“There is the problem of environmental impact,” Paris deputy mayor Pierre Rabadan, in charge of sport, told Radio France Bleu Paris on Tuesday, citing “air-conditioned stadiums”.
“The conditions under which these plants were built must also be questioned,” he added.
The move comes despite the city’s football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments.
“We have very constructive relations with the club and its surroundings, but that doesn’t prevent us from saying if we disagree,” said Rabadan.
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 northeastern seat of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, cited allegations of human rights abuses and the exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar as the reason for canceling public broadcasts of the World Cup.
“It is impossible for us to ignore the many warnings about the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers by non-governmental organizations,” Jeanne Barseghian said in a statement. “We cannot condone these abuses, we cannot turn a blind eye to human rights violations.”
And then there’s the environmental impact, Barseghian said.
“While climate change with fires, droughts and other disasters is a tangible reality, organizing a football tournament in the desert defies common sense and amounts to an ecological disaster,” she said.
Arnaud Deslandes, deputy mayor of Lille, said that by canceling public viewing of matches, the northern city wanted to send FIFA a message about the irreparable environmental damage caused by the Qatar tournament.
“We want to show FIFA that money isn’t everything,” Deslandes said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Commenting on residents’ reactions to the city’s decision, he added: “I have yet to meet anyone in Lille who was disappointed with our decision.”
The gas-rich emirate has been heavily criticized over the past decade for treating migrant workers, mostly from South Asia, needed to build tens of billions of dollars worth of stadiums, subways, roads and hotels.
Qatar has also firmly denied allegations of human rights abuses and has repeatedly denied allegations that the safety and health of 30,000 workers who built World Cup infrastructure were at risk.
Environmental activists across France have supported the suspension of public broadcasting in fan zones because broadcasting outdoors from November 20 to the 12.19 tournament would use energy that the country has saved for the winter.
In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, authorities said they were concerned about the energy costs associated with outdoor public broadcasts in the winter cold. The French government is calling for a drastic 10% cut in the country’s energy use to avoid the risk of ration cuts this winter amid tensions with supplier Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“We are trying very hard to save energy,” Bordeaux Mayor Pierre Hurmic told AP.
He added: “There’s no point in rolling out the red carpet at such an energy and environmentally intensive event.”
Surk reported from Nice, France. Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this.
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