26 January, 2014

We Need to Have a Talk About the 2018 World Cup

With just days until the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi with it's palm trees and them buying snow (don't get me started on that...), the safety of the US, and every other countries' for that matter, is in doubt.

Recently, the Russians announced that they were looking for a Black Widow (a wife of a now dead jihadist) in the Sochi area with fears that she was going to bomb, either by herself, or in conjunction with others, at least one locale for the Olympic events.

There are several IOC members on the FIFA Executive Committee that has already accepted bribes democratically voted to pick Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

So the lingering question here is, if the Russians can't keep the Olympians, their families, or fans safe, should we still keep Russia as the 2018 site for the World Cup?

Now, I'm sure there will be many who point out that the US had a bombing in Atlanta during it's summer hosting of the Olympics in 1996 and the US had successfully held a World Cup, so there is no need to fear here as well as having frequent school shootings, but let's be critical about this.

FIFA makes ticket purchases extremely hard for foreigners but gives steep discounts just before game time to locals to avoid half empty stadium embarrassments like in South Africa, and what we'll soon see in Brazil.  That means the vetting process of fans on short notice won't be nearly as good as it could be.  Sure, they can have metal detectors and jackbooted security limit access, but then that detracts from the experience and makes the venue even that more difficult to get out of should some situation arise (ie- see Hillsborough, several AFC WC qualifying events, et al).

We also have to consider some of the 2018 venues.  One is Sochi, while there are another two venues within an 8 hour drive.  These aren't too far from the questionable areas. 

This isn't to say that all of Russia is subject to this potential terrorism.  On the contrary, there are places you could walk down the street and feel completely safe should you not stand out drastically from the crowd (color, waiving certain flags, etc).  But aside from some personal issues a very small percentage of a country holds, we could have potential for catastrophy that could be avoided.

So the question is, if this can happen in several good venues, should we be looking to limit who can apply for a World Cup like the NFL limits who will be awarded the Super Bowl?  Many cold weather stadiums exist in the US but rarely will you see a cold weather locale be chosen to host the Super Bowl for the simple reason that it's too cold for fans and they can maximize money and safety in warmer places.

Perhaps another solution might be to disperse the World Cup over several countries in Europe.  Travel between countries is relatively easy and not too expensive in Europe.  Additionally, safety of fans and the associated costs can be defrayed between the host countries making one event much less impactful as well as allow short notice changes of venues should safety or another situation arise.  Rotation of venues could also be a consideration between confederations, say, for South America to hold a World Cup, rather than an individual country, to avoid some bias.

A more extreme, but no less likely fear, is an issue even past Russia.  IF we make it through the Olympics in Sochi safely, there is the concerns with Qatar with the heat, but also the less publicized issue of only one major airport in the whole country and inaccessability to leave the country should an incident occur (what are you going to do?  Hire a camel and trek 300mi across a desert to safety?)

Regardless of the "success" of any event, or more likely, the economy crushing debt caused by these events, perhaps the safety of fans and players should actually come first for FIFA for once, rather than making the most and quickest buck.

Photo: FIFA

1 comment:

  1. I should also note that there are expected to be nearly 3.5 soldiers for every Olympian in Sochi and something like 15-1 ratio of fans to soldiers with nearly 70000 soldiers/police being made available for the Olympic security.


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