World Cup 2022: French Macron says sport should not be politicized

BANGKOK, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Sport should not be politicized, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, rejecting suggestions to boycott the World Cup which starts in Qatar in a few days.

The decision to grant hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been marred by controversy, including allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, as well as concerns over its environmental impact.

Some rights groups and politicians have called for a diplomatic boycott, saying political leaders should not travel to Qatar for the event, even if their team qualifies for the finals.

Asked about it during a visit to Thailand, Macron, who according to French media would travel to Qatar if Les Bleus reach the semi-finals, said: “Sport should not be politicised”.

“Whether the issue is climate or human rights, you should ask yourself these questions not when the event occurs, but when it is attributed” to a host country, he said.

Qatar has faced criticism from rights groups over issues such as the treatment of migrant workers, the environmental impact of outdoor air conditioning in stadiums and the fact that homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.

World Cup organizers have repeatedly stated that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or background, is welcome to join the tournament.

Qatar’s government has said its labor system is still a work in progress, but has denied many of the allegations by Amnesty International and other rights groups.

“I talk to Qatar and other countries constantly, on all topics,” Macron said, when asked about the criticism. “We have frank, friendly and constructive relations.”

France has close ties with Qatar, a key economic ally.

Pressure to maintain good ties with Qatar is mounting as the continent heads into a winter of energy shortage, as the Middle Eastern nation is seen as an alternative gas supplier to Russia, some European diplomats told Reuters.

“I don’t know in what geopolitical context the Olympics that we will organize in France (in 2024) will take place,” Macron said.

“But these major events are meant to enable athletes from all countries, sometimes including countries at war, to experience their sport.

“And also to find, through sport, ways to discuss where people can no longer talk to each other. I think this should be preserved.”

Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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