FIFA Chooses 2018 and 2022 World Cup Hosts

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Amid controversy and accusations of corruption, soccer’s world governing body FIFA selected the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups this week. The 2018 host will be Russia, and the 2022 host will be Qatar. Already there is lots of talk about what these selections mean, and many observers are wondering aloud whether corruption was a factor in these selections.

In any event, FIFA officials have long been talking about how they’d like to take the World Cup into areas where the tournament has not traditionally been held. Their selection of South Africa for the 2010 tournament and Brazil for the 2014 cup shows this commitment, and these new selections seem to continue this pattern. Russia has never held a World Cup, nor has any Middle Eastern country.

As FIFA president Joseph Blatter put it at this week’s announcement ceremony in Zurich, “We go to new lands. Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world has been waiting for a long time.”

Of course, with any selection of this nature there are disappointed also-rans. Perhaps the highest-profile contenders were England for the 2018 cup and the U.S. for 2022. Given the unorthodox announcement of two future cups at the same time, host hopefuls will now have to wait several years before they can enter new bids. Countries hoping to host cups now have to look 16 or 20 years in the future, which is a difficult proposition.

Officials in the U.S. had hoped to use the World Cup to continue to further soccer in the U.S., but FIFA representatives found the U.S.’s bid lacking passion and short on convincing arguments. After all, FIFA gave the tournament to the U.S. in 1994, and many worthy potential host countries have missed out in the intervening years.

Ultimately, Qatar probably benefited from the amazing success of this year’s World Cup in South Africa, which apparently galvanized FIFA officials to continue delivering their event to parts of the world where it has not traditionally been held.

Qatar officials are reportedly excited to present a new image of the Middle East to the world. Of course, many observers are pointing to the fact that the country can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit on typical summer days, which means the country will have to build air-conditioned stadiums. Such facilities aren’t cheap.

Russia, meanwhile, sees their opportunity to host the 2018 World Cup as a chance to boost their emergence from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Detractors have pointed to Russia’s poor infrastructure and far-flung geography, which may make logistics difficult.

In the weeks leading up to the announcement, 6 of 24 members of FIFA’s selection committee were accused of corruption, with two ultimately being barred from voting. The announcement came amid calls for postponement, but FIFA pushed forward regardless. The organization, which has always faced frequent criticism for its perceived lack of transparency, probably didn’t help its cause by ignoring concerns.

The accusations against FIFA mainly focused on alleged cash bribes requested by FIFA members in exchange for support of host countries. Nigerian official Amos Adamu and French FIFA vice-president Reynald Temarii allegedly asked for $800,000 in exchange for full support of the U.S. bid. FIFA announced the two officials’ suspension shortly thereafter.

Also high in the running for the 2018 tournament were joint bids from Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal. Australia, Japan, and South Korea all had high hopes for 2022. In these disappointed countries, the selection announcement has done nothing to assuage accusations of corruption against FIFA. The story is likely to continue.

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