October 5, 2009
Chicago’s loss should be lesson for World Cup bid
Friday’s crushing defeat of Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics in 2016 should serve as a lesson for the United States World Cup bid committee.
In the world of international sports, nothing is guaranteed. No matter how good the bid, no matter who is supporting the bid, the backroom politics always play a key role in the decision.
By most early accounts, Chicago had the best bid. The facilities, the infrastructure, from air travel and hotels to local transportation, the Windy City had it all. Oprah was backing the bid, as were a host of former Olympians, and Chicago’s most famous and powerful former resident, President Barack Obama, who even made a trip to Copenhagen to lobby for the bid.
None of that mattered. Chicago got only 16 votes and was sent packing in the first round. Rio de Janiero, with its much-publicized crime problem, came out on top. Its problems are no different than South Africa’s, which will host next year’s World Cup.
Therein lies the lesson for the United States, which wants the World Cup back in either 2018 or 2022.
U.S. Soccer already has the support of Obama, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former secretary of State Henry Kissinger and even comedian-turned soccer fan-turned soccer owner Drew Carey.
Already, stadiums across the country have lined up to host the World Cup. They range from old standbys like the Rose Bowl to Jerry Jones’ new billion-dollar palace in Dallas, to the under construction new stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which will open next year to house both the Jets and Giants.
Not a single stadium for the World Cup will have to be built. There will be no last minute wondering if a strike by workers will cause stadiums to not be completed in time. That obviously does not matter. FIFA awarded the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, which is building stadiums across the country. A strike earlier this year was settled, meaning the stadiums (maybe) will be ready in time.
Brazil, which will host the 2014 World Cup along with the Olympics two years later, will have to undergo a similar building spree.
Doesn’t matter. The politics won out.
The United States already lost out on hosting a World Cup because of politics once, when the event was given to Mexico in 1986 after Colombia backed out at the last minute. The U.S. bid was hampered because of FIFA’s displeasure with the North American Soccer League monkeying with the rules to make the game more saleable to the American public.
The U.S. eventually did get the World Cup, in 1994, an award made with the requirement that the U.S. must start a new division one league. MLS is the result of that.
No doubt, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati is an adept politician and has been involved in the international game long enough to know how the backroom game is played. The question that remains to be seen is if the U.S. bid, which will no doubt be spectacular, will be enough.