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Qatar World Cup 2022: Paris joins boycott of fan zones over human rights

Paris has become the latest French city to announce that it will not be setting up giant screens and fan zones for the approaching World Cup in Qatar.

It cited human rights and environmental concerns in the host nation.

Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Reims are also boycotting the competition on ethical grounds.

Pierre Rabadan, in charge of sport at Paris City Hall, said the fact the event was taking place in winter was also a factor in the city’s decision.

The movement began on Saturday after the Socialist mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, declared that the Qatar World Cup was a “nonsense in terms of human rights, the environment and sport”.

Like other mayors – of both left and right – she blamed concerns over workers’ rights in Qatar; the alleged high number of deaths among foreign labourers; and the environmental impact of the stadiums, all equipped with outdoor air conditioning.

In Marseille, there had been plans for a giant screening if France made it to the final, but that has now been cancelled.

The city’s Socialist mayor, Benoit Payan, said the competition “had progressively turned itself into a human and environmental catastrophe, incompatible with the values which we expect sport – and especially football – to promote”.

It was unclear how many French cities were actually making preparations for outdoor venues where supporters could follow the progress of the French team, world champions in Russia 2018.

The mayor of Angoulême in south-west France said his decision was as much financial as to do with human rights in Qatar.

“It seemed incongruous to us to risk this kind of expense at a time when we are trying to make economies to absorb the growing cost of energy,” said Xavier Bonnefont, citing a giant screen cost of “several tens of thousands of euros”.

“In any case frankly in winter I don’t think there would have been many people turning up. The public will be just as happy in a bar.”

Calls for a boycott of the World Cup, which takes place between 21 November and 18 December, have been growing in France, though they remain far from mainstream.

The former international and Manchester United star Eric Cantona said he would not be watching any matches, adding: “Let’s be honest, this World Cup makes no sense. It is an aberration.”

Government spokesman Olivier Véran said: “If we were to make the decision today, we would not give the World Cup to Qatar.

However, when something was decided 10 years ago by 100 countries, it’s difficult to say stop just a few weeks before it gets under way.”

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