“Sport should not be politicized,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, three days before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“These questions must be asked whenever the events are awarded,” Macron said.
“It should be when hosting the event is decided, whether it is the World Cup or the Olympic Games, that we must honestly ask ourselves the question.
“And whether the question is on the climate or human rights, it is not necessary to ask it when the event comes.
“The question should be asked whenever hosting is decided,” the French president insisted, speaking to reporters at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok.
Macron, who traveled to Russia in 2018 to see Les Bleus lift their second World Cup title, also reflected on his country hosting the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“The vocation of these big events is to allow athletes of all countries, including sometimes of countries at war, to allow sport to exist and sometimes find, through sport, ways of discussing when people no longer manage to talk,” he said.
Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar over a decade ago, the event has been dogged by controversy with the host country strongly criticized due to alleged human rights violations in the Gulf state, the treatment of migrant workers and the event’s apparent environmental cost.
Controversy surrounding the treatment of the LGBT community has also made headlines in the run up to the tournament.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who led the organization when Qatar was awarded the hosting rights, told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger recently “Qatar is a mistake,” adding that “the choice was bad.”
Meanwhile, the men’s Danish soccer team has been forbidden from wearing training shirts reading “Human Rights for All,” The Danish Football Federation’s (DBU) CEO, Jakob Jensen, revealed last week.
France’s captain and Tottenham Hotspur player Hugo Lloris said earlier this week he would not join other European captains in wearing a rainbow-colored anti-discrimination armband during the tournament, arguing “respect should be shown” to the host country Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalized.
A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) published in October documented alleged cases of beatings and sexual harassment.
According to victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch, security forces allegedly forced transgender women to attend conversion therapy sessions at a behavioral healthcare center sponsored by the government.
“Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching,” said Rasha Younes of Human Rights Watch.
A Qatari official told CNN that the HRW allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false.”
Human Rights Watch has also recently highlighted “arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment” of LGBTQ people in Qatar.
“There are just a few days until the World Cup kickoff, but that’s plenty of time for the Qatari government to end ill-treatment of LGBT people,” HRW said in a November press release.