High-stakes sporting events set a global stage for crime

Sports, Crime, News

International sporting events unite nations in a way unmatched by any other event in the world. Ancient Greeks implemented “ekecheiria,” a concept known today as the Olympic Truce, to ensure wartime activity and conflict came to a standstill during the Olympic Games.

However, despite this type of transcontinental camaraderie and peaceful competition, global games like the Olympics, the World Cup and others are not without legal complications, especially in the areas of criminal law enforcement, trafficking and fraud. As you cheer on your favorite teams in this year’s World Cup, keep in mind that the scenes behind the games are often rife with vice, abuse and manipulation.

Sex trafficking

Sex trafficking, prostitution and child sex abuse rank among the top concerns of law enforcement officials during large-scale sporting events, especially the World Cup and Olympic Games. According to reports, nearly 600,000 foreign football fans are expected to descend on Brazil for this year’s World Cup. Such a large-scale influx in tourism raises serious concerns about the health and safety of the nation’s sex workers.

In Brazil, prostitution is legal for any consenting adult age 18 or older. Yet child prostitutes as young as 10 are accepting as little as 50 cents in exchange for sex in a desperate attempt to counter the seemingly insurmountable poverty that overwhelms many Brazilian communities.

“These girls come from extreme poverty, a culture of social exclusion and a tradition of profound disrespect for women,” explains Antonia Lima Sousa, a Brazilian state prosecutor.

The Brazilian government allotted the equivalent of $3.3 million in a campaign to combat the child sex trade in the months leading up the games. Famous footballers from nations around the globe are also speaking out against the tragedy in a campaign known as It’s a Penalty. But, sadly, estimates reveal that close to 250,000 Brazilian children are forced into prostitution, many by their own parents.

Drugs, alcohol and violence

High-intensity, high-stakes sporting events often bring about unfettered emotion and team pride even in the most reserved spectators. This devotion, coupled with alcohol or drug use that often accompanies a worldwide sporting event and celebration, can quickly lead to violence among fans, altercations with security and assaults to innocent bystanders.

This year’s Super Bowl was certainly no exception to the rule as Colorado authorities reported a record 315 DUI arrests as revelers cheered on the Denver Broncos. Violence, arrests and shootings also plagued Seahawks fans as six people were apprehended following out-of-control celebrating in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Rates of domestic violence also rise with each major sporting event. In England, researchers found that domestic violence reports rose 38 percent when England lost a World Cup game, but still increased by 26 percent when the team won. In anticipation of the 2014 games, British police personally warned citizens with a history of committing abuse.

Crime and violence were already visible in the run-up to this year’s World Cup, as scores of protestors raised concerns over the government’s presumed lavish spending on the games and its attempt to clean up the appearance of impoverished neighborhoods adjacent to the facilities, especially those that may appear on camera. According to reports, police were required to use tear gas to disburse hundreds of protestors shortly after the commencement of the festivities in mid-June.

As for the Olympic Games, drug and alcohol use garners the most attention within the Olympic Village, with several sources confirming rumors of debauchery by the world’s most elite athletes. According to one former Olympian, competitors often smuggled alcohol into the lodging areas, where it is strictly banned.

The (un)civil side of the games

While news of illicit prostitution, violence and alcohol-fueled after-parties generally gather the most media attention, sporting events also bring about civil liability issues, including fraud, contract disputes and squabbles over licensing agreements.

Constructing the stadiums for use in the World Cup cost the public taxpayers of Brazil roughly $900 million, three times the amount originally anticipated. The cause? Fraud at the hands of government subcontractors allegedly engaging in unlawful billing practices and overcharges for supplies and labor.

In a further twist, auditors have revealed that campaign contributions to politicians at the helm of the World Cup project, many of which were offered directly from building and engineering firms involved in the construction, have increased almost 500 times. A recent auditor’s report revealed nearly $275 million in price gouging related to the construction of stadiums and determined that an estimated one-third of the total cost incurred for the projects is due to corruption and exaggerated payment invoices from subcontractors.

Other issues that inevitably arise during high-stakes athletic matches include ticket scams, bogus travel packages and the emerging vacation rental farce in which a landlord or homeowner advertises a group rate for the rental of a home during the game weekend and accepts a security deposit. Upon arrival, guests face the reality that the property is either already rented or never existed in the first place.