The issues

Mega Sporting Events, such as the FIFA World Cup™ or the Olympic Games, have been proven to create numerous violations of the rights of children. Here we list the issues with links to further evidence and reports.

Children and their families are removed from their homes during the construction of stadiums and facilities for Mega Sporting Events. Displacement increases poverty, divides families and heavily impacts on children who witness their parents being assaulted and their houses torn down.

• For example in July 2015, Rio City Hall admitted that since 2009 more than 22,000 families had been evicted during preparations for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

• As far back as the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 720,000 people were forcibly displaced for stadium and infrastructure development leading up to the Games.

• The Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games led to the eviction of 300,000 people from city slums, and 1.5million were displaced by the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In the name of the law, authorities exceed their power over children. Police and army violence is a critical issue in the build-up to a sport event. The increased policing and surveillance that accompanies MSEs exacerbate the exclusion and injustice experienced by children, particularly those at risk of discrimination.

• According to this University of Dundee report on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil “police and army violence was a critical issue in the pre-cup period, relating to three issues: street clearances of street children; police occupation of favelas and displacement through forced removals”.

• Our ‘Breaking Records’ report on child rights violations during the 2016 Rio Olympics also includes personal testimonies of ‘street cleaning’ and police brutality during protests and evictions.

Children are forced to work illegally under inhumane conditions. This could be in the venue city or country, or in the production of services and products being sold or used at an event.

• Before the London 2012 Olympics concerns were raised over the conditions of a factory in China contracted to supply mascot toys.

• Four years earlier, there was evidence that children as young as 12 years old were producing Olympic merchandise for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

• This report also describes how children were involved in the manufacturing of Olympic logo goods for the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece, despite child labour legislation.

• Child labourers in India and Pakistan were found to be hand-stitching soccer balls before the 1998 World Cup in France.

Children are treated as a sexual or commercial objects. This disturbing and extremely concerning trend which has received relatively little research and media coverage. Projects such as ‘It’s a Penalty’ are seeking to address this and raise awareness specifically around Mega Sporting Events.

• In 2015 research by the University of Dundee pointed to sexual exploitation of children as one of the four key violations that happen around Mega Sporting Events – along with police (and army) violence, displacement and child labour.

• Interview data from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil showed that poor, marginalised girls aged nine to 17 as “particularly at risk from sexual exploitation and harassment”.

• In 2016 ECPAT International published a two-year report which revealed that more children are being sexually exploited than ever before. Read our contribution to the report, entitled ‘Child Sexual Exploitation: What do Mega Sporting Events have to do with it?’ 

Evidence suggests under-represented sections of society, such as women and girls, the LGBT community and minorities of different ethnicity to the host nation, suffer more from different forms of discrimination which can intensify before and during Mega Sporting Events.

• Discrimination might occur because of host country laws and practices, violence or discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, disability, or against national minorities.

• Our report Breaking Records showed that in the build-up to the 2016 Olympics, killings by Rio police disproportionately affected young black men, and increased in comparison to the previous year.

• In the context of LGBT rights, there has been strong criticism of the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar respectively. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while in May 2017 Russian police rounded up LGBT activists raising awareness of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

Children left at home by migrant workers at the construction sites for Mega Sporting Events are at risk of physical and psychological harm. The labour rights of those building event-required infrastructure has received significant international attention, but the impact on families ‘left behind’ receives virtually no coverage.

• Some insight into this issue is provided by Amnesty International’s research with migrant workers in Qatar which highlights, for example, how the non-payment of salaries may lead to a left-behind family’s inability to buy basic necessities or pay rent, mortgages or school fees.

• This research also suggests that as a result of the financial hardship created the affected families may experience harassment by money lenders or be forced to sell personal belongings.

• In 2017, it was revealed that migrant workers had suffered delayed, and non-payment of wages on construction sites of stadiums being built for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It was claimed that some North Korean workers were treated like ‘slaves’ with their wages being partially with-held by their Government. The impact of this on their families is unclear.

Child athletes are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse, and there are some risks to children which are unique to sport, in particular the increased risks for elite young athletes, such as exploitation, abuse (including sexual), over-training and doping.

• Sport needs to be delivered in a safe and supportive environment for children. In particular we believe a closer look in this perspective should be taken at Youth or under- 18 Mega Sporting Events, given their increased number over the last decades.

• We aim to support organisations faced with situations involving misconduct, bullying, harassment and other forms of inappropriate conduct, and are committed to highlighting the methods and remedial action required to restore safe environments for young athletes.