The Bloody Money Trail From the Qatar World Cup to the Los Angeles Olympics

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a human rights atrocity disguised as a football tournament. More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in the petro-dictatorship since it won the tournament, and more than two dozen perished during the rush to build stadiums. But Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family has a backlash for those who criticize their bloody organization of the Cup: billions upon billions of dollars to buy positive publicity ahead of the month-long mega-event. They present the World Cup – one of the most watched sporting events on Earth – to inflate their regime, but the fallout around the deaths of migrants has been so widespread that they have been forced to buy favorable relations in cities too happy to take their money. This is a form of what is often called “sportswashing”.

Take Los Angeles, which is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti quietly aided and abetted Qatar’s World Cup in return for funding for the struggling city. In 2020, his “Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles” accepted a $5 million donation from the Consulate General of the State of Qatar to help fight the spread of Covid-19. “This generous donation will save lives,” Garcetti said at the time. But the donation also serves to restore Qatar’s image as the lives lost in the construction of World Cup stadiums are relegated to the shadows.

Despite its name, the Los Angeles Mayor’s Fund is technically an independent nonprofit organization with no formal connection to Mayor Garcetti’s office. But Garcetti reportedly helped start the group in 2014, and it’s made up of Garcetti associates with close ties to Los Angeles City Hall. The Mayor’s Fund has received huge “imposed payments” — mostly unregulated donations — from giants like AT&T, Verizon and Paramount Pictures. Such payments provide “an ideal opportunity for the very wealthy and lobbyists to buy access to lawmakers,” said Craig Holman of consumer rights group Public Citizen. Michael Steinborn, researcher and activist for the anti-Olympics group NOlympicsLA, told us, “We don’t know what the end of LA is in this market. If we take X amount of money from Qatar, what do they get in return? »

The relationship between Garcetti and Qatar lasted a long time. In September 2016, the mayor visited the airport to personally greet Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Also in attendance was Dana Smith, then US Ambassador to Qatar, who also sits on the LA28 Olympics Board of Directors. The Qatari emir has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2002. Therefore, his visit was not only a sneaky circumvention of restrictions on visits by IOC members to Olympic candidate cities, put in place after the scandal. jaw-dropping corruption around the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, but it also gives a glimpse of how self-made sports barons do what they want and get away with it.

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