The host for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be announced today at ten o'clock Eastern Standard Time (also known as 4:00 PM, Zurich time, at FIFA's headquarters). For a whole lot of countries, this is a big deal. As James Montague explains at CNN:
The World Cup competes only with the Olympics as the biggest events in global sport; it generates billions of dollars to the economy of the host, and is able to create a "feel-good-factor" that is precious in the current era of austerity.
Unsurprisingly, given the high stakes, the campaigns for the bidding nations have been multi-million dollar affairs, while accusations of vote rigging, bribery and corruption have abounded in global media.
So who's going to get it? The United States is in the running, as are Australia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea. Meanwhile, the hosts for 2018 are also being announced, the candidates being England, Russia, Spain-Portugal, and Belgium-Netherlands (the last two as joint bids). Predictions:
- 2022: It's a Two-Country Contest "Soccer blogs," reports Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell, "seem to think it's going to come down to a choice between the United States and--believe it or not--Qatar."
- What Qatar's Got Going for It: Outdoor Air Conditioning Qatar would be the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, and has accordingly made an exceedingly flashy bid, "promis[ing]," as Hounshell relates, "to build stadiums deploying innovative outdoor cooling technology and then donate them to developing countries." Of course, as Hounshell also points out, they would have to do something like that--a big concern is how hot it would be in the summer in Qatar. CNN's James Montague adds that for countries like Qatar, "money isn't the real objective; rather a short cut to Qatar being taken seriously on the international stage."
- What the U.S. Has Going for It For FIFA, though, Hounshell notes, it really is about the money, and "and Qatar can't hope to match the size of the U.S. market. But you never know. Politicians, not technocrats, are the ultimate deciders here." Meanwhile, Japan 2022 World Cup bid committee chief (also a FIFA board member) Junji Ogura seems to agree. As he said Tuesday, reported in the Japan Times: "I'd say it would be America due to the capacity of the stadiums and the number of spectators over the course of the tournament. That would translate into income and income is what FIFA is hoping for." That's certainly the message U.S. bid co-presenter Bill Clinton (the other one being Morgan Freeman) stuck with as well, the Wall Street Journal reporting that he "finish[ed] off the presentation with a promise to put on a World Cup that will be so profitable that it will help FIFA fulfill all of its own social goals and promises."
- What the U.S. Has to Worry About "It would be quite the coup to be given a second World Cup in such a short space of time," writes Time's Glen Levy. The U.S. last hosted the Cup in 1994.
- Star Power in the U.S. Bid Presenters "As an exhausting campaign entered its final stages, the [countries] each got 30 minutes to make their case to FIFA members ahead of the vote on the 2022 World Cup, ensuring a liberal sprinkling of stardust," explain The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Clegg and Matthew Futterman: "Former president Bill Clinton, actor Morgan Freeman and Elle Macpherson, the supermodel, were all on hand to endorse their country's bids."
- And Also in the English Presenters for 2018 The U.S. and England aren't competing against each other, each aiming for a different year. Perhaps that's a good thing. Who could compete with Bill Clinton and Morgan Freeman? Perhaps "Davids Cameron and Beckham, and Prince William," as The Spectator's Peter Hoskin phrases it. "To my eyes, it was schmaltzily effective stuff ... All that remains to do is echo Iain Dale's call of 'Come on England!' And if we don't win, then it was obviously fixed."
- How the Joint 2018-2022 Announcement Has Led to 'Fixing' Allegations "The bid process has been by far the most controversial that FIFA has ever overseen," writes CNN's James Montague. "Its decision to decide the fate of both the 2018 and 2022 bids at the same time has been widely criticized for encouraging vote collusion between bids--an accusation FIFA deny." But here's the catch: "Undercover journalists secretly filmed two members of FIFA's then 24-strong executive committee allegedly offering to sell their votes." It's the British press who have been uncovering this stuff, through multiple investigations, but "in the short term," writes Montague, "it is likely that the allegations will hurt the England 2018 bid hardest." Apparently a few British officials are concerned the British press may have "upset other members of FIFA's executive committee" with their revelations.
- Other Shenanigans Russia was the favorite for 2018, but after Putin pulled out of the bid team it's not so clear: "Putin has ... hinted that Russia has faced 'unscrupulous competition,'" muses Time's Glen Levy, "which might be a reference to alleged voting patterns or that's he had the tip-off that Russia won't be winning in which case he won't want to be associated with failure." Another bit of trivia regarding Australia's bid for 2022: "Going against the Aussies is the brutal time difference in regard to the always lucrative European audience." And a final, bewildering note on South Korea's campaign:
Full kudos to the South Koreans, however, for promising to include a North Korean host city. Good luck with that.