Circus Maximus by Andrew Zimbalist
The Olympics and World Cup are two of my favorite global events. I love the concept of bringing the world together, and I admire the ability to make these logistic nightmares happen. The 2002 Japan-Korea World Cup was probably the peak of my interest in soccer. I remember watching the Italy-France final of the 2006 World Cup in French class. The 2008 Beijing Olympics was a historic moment and also my earliest memory of streaming sports. The last time I was in Vancouver, I visited some of Olympic stadiums and found them to be in great shape. Given all this, I was somewhat surprised by the backlash in the Boston community over the city’s bid for the Olympics. I was even more surprised to hear that essentially no one wants to host future Winter Olympics. So I decided to read more about the history and the workings of these mega events.
1) The term ‘soccer’ likely came from ‘socca’ which is short for ‘association’ – for Association Football, as opposed to Rugby Football.
‘Soccer’ allegedly came before the word ‘football’. Blasphemy.
2) Confederations Cup is a quadrennial tournament that takes place in the host country of the World Cup one year before.
How have I never heard of this before?
3) The modern Olympics started as a competition for amateurs. In 1987, the IOC voted to allow professional tennis players to play. In 1991, all restrictions on professionals were lifted.
Astonishing that professionals weren’t allowed to compete. How does this make sense? This was only 24 years ago.
4) The Nagano host committee burned their financial records.
Holding my breath for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
5) Winter and summer Olympics took place in the same year until 1992.
Another crazily recent change.
6) FIFA requires a host country to have 8 modern stadiums, each of which can hold at least 40,000. One must have capacity for 60,000 for the opening match, and one must have capacity for 80,000 for the final match.
Lowering these limits seems like an easy fix that can help alleviate part of the white elephant problem.
7) Favelas are slums in urban Brazilian cities. Many were destroyed to make room for the World Cup.
I suspect this word will become a household term very soon.
8) Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff declared that public employees could go home at 12:30 on days with World Cup matches.
Brazil seems extremely incapable of withstanding the economic shocks of hosting two global mega events.
9) LA 1984 is the poster child for a financially successful Olympic Games.
According to the author, LA was able to make a profit mainly because there were no competing bids for the Olympics, so LA had leverage. LA said it would not spend public money on the games, and IOC was forced to guarantee against any operating losses.
10) Sepp Blatter was involved in a watch gifting scandal in September 2014.
How the Swiss maintains such a great reputation despite blatant money scandals is amazing. Switzerland is the best PR machine in the world.
We need events like the Olympics and the World Cup. For me, they are great things to look forward to. You get a chance to see countries showcase themselves or at least try. More importantly, they are a reminder that, controversies aside, human beings are always striving to be the best. Of course, things are never as nice as they appear, especially on TV. Both the Olympics and the World Cup need to get their acts together. Some of that starts with the market. If no one wants to host, what will the committees do?