In an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the largest marathon ever, officials in Doha, Qatar, bused in thousands of immigrant slaves working in the country and forced them to run in whatever clothes they had -- including even if they were shoeless.
Many workers wound up running in jeans and flip-flops, Doha News reported. Those who tried to leave were forced to stay in the marathon and cross the line, which was required for their participation to count. The marathon was started at 2 p.m., when the temperature was 84 degrees.
The logic behind the event, which was a half-marathon, was amazingly ignorant: The race's official website branded the marathon as a protest against global negative opinions toward Qatar, including a "decisive response to the campaign waged by the sector of envious haters on the success of Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and to their false allegations of persecution of workers and residents in our beloved country."
Somehow, forcing slaves to run 13.1 miles in the heat doesn't seem to be the appropriate response to those allegations. Meanwhile, Qatar has been slammed by Amnesty International for its "severe" exploitation of slaves in Qatar. The country operates a system of slavery that turns employees into property owned by their employers.
Employers often hold the passports of those individuals, which prevents them from escaping the country.
These immigrant workers comprise 90 percent of Qatar's population, and this labor force is being used to build the soccer stadiums in the country ahead of the 2022 World Cup. The country's widespread use of de facto slavery has been a point of criticism against FIFA, which awarded the World Cup to that country despite its poor record of human rights violations.
Despite the global outcry, FIFA hasn't deviated from its plans, and Qatar has made no effort to reform its practices. In fact, this marathon stunt suggests it is as emboldened as ever to maintain its ugly status quo.
As it turned out, it didn't come close to the marathon-participation record. It would've needed more than 50,000 runners. A race representative told Doha News that there were about 33,000, but others pegged the total to be much lower.
Even for runners who had been preparing for the event found it to be disorganized. Doha News cited a runner's complaint posted to the race's Facebook page: "too exhausted and too tired but despite of the obstacles i tried to finish the race only to discover that there was nobody on the officials table, no organizer, no medals for finisher, and to think that there were timing devices on our numbers..what are we supposed to do..no one explain it to us…very disappointing…"