The decision raises a
host of logistical and sporting questions (Will Qatar crack the top 100
in the world rankings before it receives its automatic berth in the
2022 tournament as the host country? Will FIFA survive hosting
consecutive Cups in South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and Qatar without a
major security incident? How can a World Cup take place in a country
where drinking is restricted and it's illegal to be gay?) The larger
issue is that the precipitous decline of America's global standing has
led to it being shut out of hosting global sporting events.
Since 1960, the longest the U.S. has gone without hosting an Olympics
or a World Cup is 20 years (from 1960 to 1980). With little support for
a U.S. Olympic bid anytime soon, Thursday's vote ensures the current
drought will last longer than that.
The lack of global
support stands in stark contrast to the boom period of America-as-host
from 1980-2002. In barely two decades, the U.S. hosted two Summer
Olympics, two Winter Olympics, the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's
World Cup. American sports fans were treated to an embarrassment of
riches, from "USA 4, USSR 3" to Dream Team 2 to Roberto Baggio hanging his head
after his shootout kick sailed over the crossbar. At the same time, the
U.S. ended the Cold War, presided over the economic boom of the 1990s
and generally assumed the position of benevolent superpower (Somalia
Then came September 11, and the
Iraq War, and the unpopular foreign policy attitude of George W. Bush.
Suddenly America was the super villain instead of the superpower, and
the attitude of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee became
downright hostile. The U.S. didn't help its cause with the Atlanta
bombing in '96 and the corrupt backroom bargains that brought the 2002
Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City.
The result has
been one glaring failure after another on the world stage. New York's
ill-fated 2012 Olympic bid collapsed when Charles Dolan blocked the
creation of an Olympic Stadium in Manhattan (ruining New York's chances
almost as quickly as his son ruined the Knicks). Chicago put together a
strong bid for the 2016 Games, with a closing argument from none other
than President Obama in Copenhagen last year, only to be eliminated in the first round
of voting. Now the U.S. has lost out to a country smaller than
Connecticut with antediluvian social norms and an average high
temperature in the summer of 106 degrees.
opinion will have shifted in a few years and America will be the proud
host of the 2026 World Cup or 2030 Winter Olympics. If not, there are
195 countries in the world. It could be a while before the powers that
be get around to us again.