A lot of the news stories have been written about whether the 2014 World Cup should have been hosted by Brazil, a country that — though full of what are possibly the most fanatical soccer fans on the planet — probably could have spent its money more wisely. Because, as it turns out, the conventional wisdom that major sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup are an economic boon to the host economy isn’t true. In the case of South Africa, who hosted in 2010, it actually cost them billions of dollars in a country where billions of dollars could otherwise make a huge difference.
There’s no reason to think things will be any different for Brazil, and, at the end of the day, the money spent on stadiums used for a month and then abandoned, dismantled, or left as an economic drain on the city, would’ve been more wisely spent on education, poverty alleviation, and crime reduction.
But it’s too late for the Brazil World Cup. It’s already underway, and most of the money’s already been spent. It’s not too late for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Why the Qatar World Cup is a catastrophe
In 2010, Qatar was chosen by FIFA (the Swiss body that regulates international soccer) as the site of the 2022 World Cup. Immediately people started asking, “Hey, isn’t that a desert country? Won’t that be incredibly fucking hot in the summer, when the World Cup is played?”
The answer to both questions is yes. Temperatures in Qatar in the summer can reach into the 120s. The Qatari bid for the World Cup contained a provision for air-conditioned stadiums, which (shock!) turned out to be wildly unsustainable, expensive, and impractical. FIFA then suggested moving the tournament to winter…right smack in the middle of regular league play.
It turns out this absolutely absurd host selection may have been the result of an obscene amount of bribery from the Qataris, and a shocking-if-you’re-totally-unfamiliar-with-how-FIFA-does-business amount of corruption on the part of FIFA. If you want a breakdown of how FIFA is the worst, check out John Oliver’s recent treatment of the issue:
On top of all that, it recently came out that FIFA had received a report during the bidding process that there’s a “high risk” of a major terrorist attack during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — the only bidding country to have such a risk. The risk was presumably decided to be worth the alleged bribes.
What came before the selection of Qatar as the venue for the World Cup was disturbing, but what’s come after is basically a crime against humanity. More than 900 workers have already died building the country’s World Cup infrastructure. That’s as of this past March, so it’s more than that by now; there’s been an average of one death per day. The International Trade Union Confederation conservatively estimates that over 4,000 will die by the start of the World Cup.
The deaths are in part a result of appalling work conditions, which are at times slavery and at other times indentured servitude, mixed with the extreme temperatures in Qatar.
Recently, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake” (presumably because “mistake” sounds better than “crime against humanity”), citing the temperature. He didn’t mention FIFA’s complicity in human rights violations.
Why the 2022 World Cup should be given to the US
Naturally, the World Cup should be moved solely on the basis of the working conditions in Qatar. Several bodies and publications have already called on FIFA to reopen the bidding process, and, obviously, the 2022 World Cup should be moved to the United States.
Admittedly, I’m totally biased because I’m an American soccer fan and would freak the fuck out if the World Cup returned to the States, but there are a lot of reasons why the US should be selected as the 2022 host.
First, we came in second to Qatar for the 2022 bid when the selection process was happening. Granted, considering FIFA’s apparently endemic corruption, that might not be saying much, but there haven’t been any corruption allegations addressing the American bidding process, which one would hope means the US came in second on the merit of its bid, while Qatar bought its way through the door. So a plan for the US hosting the 2022 World Cup already exists, and it’s not too late for us to follow through.
Second, location of the 2018 World Cup (Russia) was chosen at the same time as the 2022 host (both selections were made in 2010). So if the 2022 host were re-designated this year, the US would have the same amount of time to prepare for its World Cup as Russia was allotted.
Third, the US already has some of the necessary infrastructure. We’re chock-full of large stadiums that could be converted into soccer fields, not counting everything we have left over from 1994. If FIFA decides to pull a complete 180 by being responsible and not extravagantly wasteful, they could easily find a number of appropriate stadiums in areas that also serve their other needs, like proximity to hotels for players, officials, and referees.
Fourth, and finally, while it turns out that hosting a major world sporting event doesn’t help a country’s economy, it does increase its overall happiness level. When it comes to the economy, happiness only rises with economic gain to a point — basically, once you’re out of poverty, money’s effect on your happiness plateaus. So, in developing countries, if the end goal is raising levels of happiness, the money would be better spent on stuff like education and poverty alleviation. But in developed countries — like the US — it makes sense to spend big on stuff like the Olympics and the World Cup.
Sure, there are other countries that meet the same criteria as the US. But we’re ready, and as long as we can put it on without any serious human rights violations, we’d be much better suited to hosting the World Cup. America 2022!