Monday, December 6, 2010
The World Cup and the New World
By Bagga Wilks
The 2018 World Cup will be staged in Russia and in 2022 in Qatar. There was gnashing of teeth as strong delegations from England and the United States made gallant efforts to stage the World Cup in their respective territories. The British trotted out Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William in their quest to double up on obtaining the Olympic Games in 2012.
The United States successfully staged the World Cup in 1994 and the bid for the ensuing dates included the actor Morgan Freeman and former President Bill Clinton. But for the former imperial Great Britain and the present policeman of the world, there was no cigar.
There was much apprehension when FIFA awarded the 19th World Cup to South Africa. Mandela’s South Africa is the most developed country in Africa with modern railroads, advanced infrastructure but plagued with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The world looked on to see whether the former apartheid country could successfully put on this world spectacle. Outside of the vuvuzelas, the organizing of the tournament was flawless.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and Russia as a world power was diminished. Russia has long since abandoned totalitarianism but is yet to establish a democratic capitalist society where freedom of the press and democratic liberties have been firmly established. Vladimir Putin is no longer the President but as Prime Minister remains the dominant force in Russia.
Russia previously staged the Olympic Games in 1980 when the United States boycotted the game because of USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. Russia has a steep task ahead to construct thirteen new stadiums and to renovate three others.
The FIFA Executive seemed to have factored in the transformative nature of holding the World Cup in a particular country. Both Russia and Qatar made the case that putting on the World Cup would have a transformative impact on their respective societies. Certainly in Qatar anything that can further integrate the Middle Eastern countries into the world community will be immensely helpful towards the building of peace.
The World Cup started in 1930 but the eruption of World War 11 thwarted the holding of any World Cups in 1942 and 1946. For most of those years, the typical venue was Western Europe. The decision-making body of FIFA is genuinely democratic with representation from the four corners of the world. The World Cup is now genuinely the World Cup. Europe is no longer the center of the World of Soccer even though the great clubs are still located in that part of the world.
America wanted another bite of the apple but it will have to rejoin the queue and perhaps, the United States will get the opportunity to stage the 23rd World Cup in the home of the brave.