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The Truth behind the Qatar World Cup Stadiums

By Reilly McKnight

December 28, 2022


[Photo Source:]

Each of the eight enormous, radiant soccer stadiums constructed for the 2022 World Cup this winter were designed to perfection. The opulent gold-plated exterior of the 80,000 capacity Lusail Stadium, the swooping curves of Al Janoub Stadium’s roof– meant to emulate sails of traditional dhow boats, the jewel-like appearance of the Education City Stadium, and the bold design of Stadium 974– made primarily of repurposed shipping containers, are only a few examples of the unique architecture these engineering marvels offer.

In terms of sustainability, these stadiums seemingly continue to impress. Al Bayt Stadium’s billowing tent-like structure and retractable roof provide an eco-friendly cooling system in the scorching desert temperatures. Education City Stadium received a 5-star Global Sustainability Assessment System rating, with 20% of its materials made from eco-friendly sources. And most impressively, Stadium 974– built from 974 steel shipping containers– is the first ever temporary World Cup venue, with plans to dismantle and re-use materials after the tournament. Additionally, each stadium will later be partially re-purposed, with seating areas turned into medical facilities, community centers, etc.

However, when delving into the environmental impacts, there are many hidden consequences. FIFA and Qatar set an audacious promise of a carbon neutral tournament, a goal never achieved before for a sporting competition of such gigantic scale. Unfortunately, due to the stadium construction, the carbon footprint is nearly 8 times more than the organizers estimated, at over 10 million tonnes of CO2 waste. This event created significantly more emissions than prior World Cups, despite the eco-friendly label that’s been presented in its marketing. While the environmentally-beneficial aspects of each stadium is commendable, misleading and exaggerated claims to the event’s impacts must be taken into consideration.

Nevertheless, there is one cost greater than both the CO2 emissions and the $10 billion the host nation invested into these stadiums, greater than even the $220 billion spent on the entire World Cup preparation since 2010. This cost is human rights atrocities involved in the construction of these stadiums. Despite FIFA reporting 37 deaths, a 2021 analysis from The Guardian revealed the shocking truth. 6,500 migrant workers died due to unsafe and inhumane working conditions. Workers brought in from India, Pakistan, Nepal, etc. were put in a substandard working and living environment, without adequate water in the 125 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. If workers protested, they would be instantly fired– not a possible option for these migrants who needed to provide for their families back home. Companies evaded responsibility by covering up human rights abuses during FIFA’s inspections and in 2017, promising to reform worker’s rights, with few quantifiable improvements in the years since. In truth, these stadiums were built from forced labor. Seemingly impossible in the 21st century, this is the harsh reality of this sporting event, corrupted by visions of architectural glamor, wealth, and power.

So when admiring the unique, eye-catching designs and functionality of these stadiums that will showcase the pinnacle of the “beautiful game,” and when listening as news outlets praise the inspiring environmental features of each venue, promise to remember the 10 million tonnes of carbon emissions and the impact it has on our world. Most importantly, promise to honor the lives of those 6,500 migrant workers, the true heroes behind these stadiums and the entire 2022 World Cup.


Barker, Nat. “World Cup's Sustainability Claims ‘Built on Sand’ Say Experts.” Dezeen, 18 Nov. 2022,

Craig, Matt. “The Money behind the Most Expensive World Cup in History: Qatar 2022 by the Numbers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Nov. 2022,

Florian, Maria-Cristina. “Qatar's Lusail Stadium Designed by Foster + Partners Hosts Its First Game.” ArchDaily, ArchDaily, 28 Sept. 2022,

Hirsh, Sophie. “The Qatar World Cup Controversies, from the Environmental Impact to Anti-LGBTQ Laws (Exclusive).” Green Matters, Green Matters, 4 Nov. 2022,

“Migrant Workers Recount Abuse While Building Stadiums for World Cup in Qatar.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 18 Nov. 2022,

Pattinson, Pete, and Niamh McIntyre. “Revealed: 6,500 Migrant Workers Have Died in Qatar since World Cup Awarded.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 Feb. 2021,

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