Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let's Move the World Cup! (Again)

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the only (men's soccer) World Cup to be held in the United States, (not) coincidentally the only one I've ever attended. The U.S. might bid for the 2026 World Cup. But could the Cup come back to the States sooner than that?

Well, with Russia currently in the international doghouse, there are calls to strip Russia of the 2018 hosting duties. And Qatar is such a mess on the heat/bribery/human rights angles that moving the 2022 Cup to the U.S. is now a perennial story.

So that got me thinking: how would that work. Well, one answer is about as well as plans to move the 2010 Cup to the U.S...
Fifa executives have voiced "serious" doubts about whether South Africa will be able to host the next World Cup in 2010 and have discussed a radical contingency plan that would see the United States stage the tournament instead...
or the 2014 Cup
...some members of Brazil's Football Confederation fear the [World] Cup will be transferred to the USA due to the protests...
So these rumors come up every few years (and it's an indication of how badly FIFA has done with the selection process that it has come up four Cups in a row), and often for the Olympics as well. Nothing ever seems to come of it. So I thought I'd try to find as many examples as possible of major international sporting events being moved.

I came up with four. I suspect I've missed a few, depending on your definition of "major". But here goes.
  • The 2003 Women's World Cup was moved in May 2003 from China to the U.S. because of SARS fears. This was really a last-minute move. How major was the tournament? At over 600,000 total attendance, it ranks below all but the first 3 men's World Cups. But the 1999 and 2007 WWCs each topped a million, indicating that the short lead time could have depressed turnout.
  • The 1986 (men's) World Cup was moved in 1982 from Colombia to Mexico, since Colombia didn't feel it was financially prepared to host. Colombia had been awarded the hosting rights in 1974. I thought awarding the 2022 Cup in 2010 was ridiculous, but apparently it wasn't unprecedented.
  • The 1908 Olympics were originally awarded to Rome, but when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 1906, Italy didn't feel like it could afford to rebuild Naples and host the Olympics, so the games went to London.
  • The 1904 Olympics were originally awarded to Chicago, but St. Louis was having the World's Fair, and threatened to overshadow it with their own games, so the Olympics were moved. This seems like the least relevant example.
So, anyway, it has happened before, but very, very rarely. So I guess I'll greet any future "maybe they'll move the World Cup" stories with skepticism, but I can't say it's impossible.

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