Since its founding in 1930, the Fifa World Cup has grown to be one of the largest recognized sporting events among the globe. After the first World Cup series, taking place in Uruguay, the event has taken place in a different country every four years, and will return to Russia in the year 2018. With preparation for the next World Cup, there is also much discussion whether the cup is completely beneficial to a country’s well-being or if it is possible that there might be more harm done than there is good to the country in the long run. We will explore the perspectives of different countries throughout the cup’s history in the aspects of cultural, economic, and political standpoints to find if hosting the 2018 World Cup is truly as great as it has been hyped up to be.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, is the sport of soccer’s global governing body. In 1928 Uruguay’s men’s national soccer team retained their title at the summer Olympic games, causing them to be selected as the host country of the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup. The first World Cup included 13 teams representing 3 continents and has dramatically grown since then. Today, the World Cup tournament includes 32 teams from all corners of the world. Since the inaugural tournament, the championship has taken place every four years with the exception of the 1942 and the 1946 seasons due to World War II. The tournament has been played 20 times with only 8 different nations having won it.
Because of soccer’s worldwide popularity, FIFA doesn’t just represent a sport; the organization represents international politics, human rights, major business transactions, and many other categories. FIFA controls the media rights to an event that 1/9th of the world’s population watches and they also control the placement of the World Cup. Because of this, FIFA has a great deal of power and billions of dollars in its sway. As John Sugden puts it in his book FIFA and the Contest for World Football: Who Rules the People’s Game?, “membership of FIFA…is the clearest signal that a country’s status as a nation state has been recognized by the international community.” By simply being associated with FIFA a country automatically gains credibility. With great power comes great responsibility and that is one thing FIFA has taken a lot of criticism for over the years. Issues such as labor disputes, financial mismanagement, and corruption within the organization have all come up. Regardless of all these controversies, FIFA remains to be a global power and the leading force in soccer.
There are many economic, fiscal, and political implications that come along with a country’s hosting of super-sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics. Many question what factors are looked at when deciding what countries should host such events, as well as what the long term effects the host country has.
In 2010 South Africa hosted the FIFA world cup. It has been interesting to see how their country has evolved in the years since then. One major argument for the selection of South Africa for the tournament was the social standing of so many of its citizens. Nearly 50% living in poverty, and a quarter of the population unemployed. Reports state that the South African Government spent nearly $1.48 Billion on construction and renovation of Soccer Stadiums for the tournament alone, let alone all the interior renovation done to the country. Soccer stadiums should not be a place of major political spending of the government.
Another major argument against hosting these tournaments is the wasteful construction of the stadiums. Although, five South African stadiums were able to be renovated, an additional five new stadiums had to be built in order to host the World Cup. These stadiums were built to contain between 40,000 and 64,000 people (in comparison Faurot Field holds about 71,000).The top soccer team in South Africa, the ABSA Premiership, averaged less than 8,000 people in attendance per game in the 2009-2010 season. A mere 2% of the games held that season drew more than 40,000 people. (Forbes) There was not the slightest chance of South Africa being able to put these stadiums to good use after the World Cup was done with them. This has happened to many countries in the past, and now these once state of the art stadiums now sit in ruins collecting dust.
Although there are a few countries that manage to benefit in the long term from these events, such as Sydney Australia, the general outcome is very negative. These mega-events almost resemble a virus, coming in, using the benefits of the country while they’re there, and then moving on, leaving the country to deal with the rotting remains. Meanwhile FIFA has moved on to the next country who so badly vied for the chance to host.
The FIFA World Cup is a time where cultures collide and competition is high. Japan and South Korea instilled their culture on the world through making a mark on history, inviting everyone into their past, and exposing the world to their lifestyle. The first cup in Asia was in 2002 when Korea and Japan merged together to co-host the World Cup. This was the first and last time two different countries have hosted the cup.
This symbolic gesture of unity impacted all those involved. Since the historical clash of World War II, the neighboring countries have experienced aggressive interactions. The symbolism of Japan putting past mistreatment by the Allies behind them to unify for Asia created peace in the competition. Although, there was concern of possible foul play or terrorist acts, the hosting of World Cup 2002 brought both cultures together successfully without hostility. The competition included festivities and ceremonies that all coincide with the host country’s underlying strive for unity.
Japan and Korea started their festivities prior to the opening ceremony. With the Flag Festival, “Poetry of the Winds”, they wished success upon the World Cup to promote harmony during the tournament. Following the South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung’s public welcome, “I declare the 2002 FIFA World Cup open!” the cup began. Japan and South Korea’s opening ceremony combined both cultures into one unified message. According to The Journal of Sport Management, Japan and Korea came together and through the focus of a commonly respected sport, sprouted change and unity. The 2002 World Cup proves that the tournament is constructive for world relations.
Lastly, this idea of a unification stretches across borders in a way that most countries normally cannot. The World Cup brings countries together despite economic, diplomatic and cultural disputes and disconnections. It allows the world to come together under a common interest. As a result, the FIFA World Cup has grown into a legacy in the last seventy-five years, unmatched even by the Olympics. Its global spotlight, undeterred by international conflict, has given it such a compelling history. Despite the issues of corruption and the dropout from the short lived economic bump for the host country, this exposure of global integration allows for the progression of international relations through something as simple as a soccer tournament.