Danger of Human Trafficking at Sporting Events

There are an estimated 2.5 million people in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) in the world at any given time as a result of human trafficking. Human trafficking affects people on every continent, and in every type of economy. In fact, the U.S. sex trade grosses 9.5 billion dollars annually.
Human trafficking is a gruesome reality to face. But something many of us are not aware of is that trafficking can be a major danger at large-scale sporting events. Authorities are calling for greater protection measures to be taken surrounding events such as the World Cup, the Super Bowl and the Olympics. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there were more than 10,000 exploited women and girls trafficked to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010. New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Tracy Thompson refers to the Super Bowl as an increased “breeding ground” for human trafficking.

the U.S. sex trade grosses 9.5 billion dollars annually.

Executive Director Carol Smolenski of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking)- USA, describes the phenomenon from a supply and demand point of view “….the demand side becomes more concentrated in one geographic location for a short period of time, before then dispersing again when the event is over.” In other words, the vast crowds of people in attendance at large-scale events like these are seen by traffickers as a huge pool of potential clients. While it’s true that people can be abducted and trafficked from sporting events, it appears more likely that traffickers use the events as venues where previously trapped victims can be used and profited from.

When Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, there was a 95% increase in victims of trafficking during the months before the games. There is concern that there will be a similar rise in trafficking surrounding events like the 2014 Winter Olympics- “Since Russia does not have in place any formal national procedures to guide law enforcement in the identification of sex trafficking victims and does not fund trafficking victim care, I am very concerned that the 2014 Winter Olympics may turn out to be a trafficking nightmare”, says U.S. House of Representatives chairman Chris Smith, of the subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. There is similar concern surrounding the upcoming World Cup (June-July 2014) and the Olympic Games (2016) being hosted in Brazil.
Chairman Smith puts forward a strategy to fight this. He cites the importance of training commercial transportation employees, such as flight attendants, to recognize and report possible signs of trafficking in passengers. These employees are described as “the first line of defense” against trafficking. The importance of training people who work at sporting events is also stressed. In addition, ECPAT emphasizes the necessity of training workers at hotels to recognize and report possible signs of human trafficking and exploitation.