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Paris joins growing list of French cities boycotting Qatar World Cup fan zones

<i>James Williamson/Getty Images</i><br/>France is looking to retain the World Cup after winning the competition in 2018.
James Williamson/Getty Images
France is looking to retain the World Cup after winning the competition in 2018.

By Alasdair Howorth, Xiaofei Xu, Natacha Bracken and Renée Bertini, CNN

It’s likely that many French fans will be following this year’s World Cup in Qatar as their team, the winner four years ago in Russia, fights to defend its title, but they won’t be doing it with other football supporters in some of France’s major cities’ public spaces.

Notably, Paris says it will not organize fan zones for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, citing social and environmental issues.

“[Our reasons are] firstly because of the environmental and social conditions regarding the event and this is not the model that we wish to promote for major events in Paris,” Pierre Rabadan, Paris’ deputy mayor of sport, said on Tuesday,

However, the city made it clear that it is not a boycott of the event itself, nor of the Qatari regime.

“It doesn’t mean that we are calling for a boycott of the event,” added Rabadan.

However, some have accusing the city of hypocrisy given its flagship sports team Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) is owned by a Qatari company closely connected to the Qatari state and has a Qatari president — Nasser Al Khelaifi.

“We know how much they [heads of PSG] have brought to the PSG club and therefore also to the city,” Rabadan added to his statement.

Last year, PSG cited a study carried out by the Centre of Sport Law and Economy, which estimated the Ligue 1 club had generated more than 182.2 million euros ($180.7 million) for the region’s economy over the course of the 2018-2019 season as well as helping “maintain 2,150 full-time equivalent jobs.”

“These additional sources of income for Île-de-France are largely explained by the club’s drawing power and influence on the international stage,” said the study’s author Christophe Lepetit.

“Paris Saint-Germain’s matches in the Parc des Princes have become a must-see event for a great many foreign visitors.”

Paris joins Strasbourg, Lille, Rodez, Bordeaux, Nancy and Reims in committing to not organizing public viewings.

“I repeat that this is not the trial of Qatar, we are questioning the model of this event,” insisted Rabadan.

Since Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010, more than 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country, The Guardian has previously reported

Most of the workers, the authors alleged, were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often done in extreme heat.

The Guardian report did not definitively link all 6,500 deaths to World Cup infrastructure projects, though one expert told the British paper it was “likely many workers who have died were employed” on those projects.

CNN has not independently verified The Guardian’s figures.

Qatar World Cup officials estimate a very different death toll, telling CNN last year that there have been just three work-related deaths on stadiums and 35 non-work-related deaths.

Hassan Al Thawadi — the man in charge of leading the event’s preparations — told CNN’s Becky Anderson that The Guardian’s 6,500 figure was “inherently misleading” and lacking context.

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