Asian labourers ‘press-ganged’ into competing in Qatar’s marathon record attempt

Many of the participants in an attempt to break the Guinness world record for the greatest number of runners in a single marathon were labourers who had been bussed in to boost numbers, reports say.

According to Doha News, many migrant workers of south Asian origin were brought to the event from work sites and were dressed in jeans and footwear such as flip-flops and slippers. 

The paper reported that some tried to leave but were told that they had to "stay and cross the line". 

Only 33,000 registered runners appeared at the marathon, which therefore failed to beat the 50,000 record held by the US. Other sources have said that the number of participants was much lower than 33,000. 

The event itself was originally meant to be held on the 6 February for National Sports Day but was postponed. The race itself was delayed until 2pm, a very hot part of the day, and many runners complained of poor management and a lack of refreshments. The event was then turned into a half marathon. 

Many runners took the event’s Facebook page to voice concerns but the page has now been taken down. 

Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher for Gulf Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Telegraph: "If migrant workers have been press-ganged into competing in an event that demands physical endurance then whoever is responsible has shown a contemptible disregard for their dignity and welfare. 

"Qatar’s Athletics Federation should investigate these very serious allegations immediately." 

In November last year, Amnesty International said Qatar’s response to worker abuse was "woefully insufficient". It was recently announced that French company Vinci is to sue human rights group Sherpa over allegations that it used forced labour in Qatar.

Image: The "Mega Marathon" start line (Qatar Mega-Marathon/Facebook/Doha News)

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