I needed some time to cool off and reflect on FIFA's decision to award two World Cups in the same afternoon. FIFA has that rare ability to get two decisions wrong in the same day, much like reading Scalia writing about individual freedoms at the Supreme Court. You know a bad decision is coming but you aren't sure how wrong the decision is going to be. In the case of FIFA, the decision to give 2018 to Russia was bad, especially over impressive bids by England (my personal choice) and Portugal/Spain joint bid. England, being the father of the sport, was clearly an early favorite. And as we have seen, early favorites are prone to losing more than fulfilling their destiny.
What makes the choice of Russia so upsetting is that there were three other bids that were more qualified and the lack of infrastructure and lucidity in Russia. Russia is still not living under a predictable rule of law. I would argue they have less of a rule of law than even South Africa, our last host. In comparison, South Africa, was an attractive tourist destination and a country full of vibrant personalities like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu (I thoroughly dislike the latter). Russia is known for its coldness, mafia and lack of justice. Is Russia enticing to travel to? For some, but not many.
Americans dominated the ticket buying scene in South Africa. Will they travel to Russia or Qatar to watch the games in such numbers? Doubtful, but Mr. Blatter is more concerned with bringing new blood to the games. But this is shortsighted. How many other countries have an upper middle class willing to spedn so much money on an extravagent luxury like a soccer vacation.
Much has been written already about the weather in Qatar, but I will reiterate the most important points. To begin with, 120 degrees is a brutal day, let alone that scorching tempetature for the full tournament. Not only will this lower the quality of play, but it will also deter tourists. Yes, the argument can be made that the more conditioned team should win. And this would assist the American team, because they are well conditioned, but ultimately in the long run the level of soccer in the later stages will be worse than it should be. Players will be exhausted and the final will not be the highest quality of soccer. Secondly, the fact that the question even had to be asked of Qatar: If Israel qualifies will they be allowed to participate? Speaks volumes of the level of tolerance and diversity present in the country? How relaxed with the alcohol standards be in the country? Qatar, being a conservative Muslim nation, has values that clash with most of the soccer watching public. To tell a European that there are restrictions on their drinking during the World Cup is liable to lead to riots.
All in all, without even considering the vote selling issues, there are plenty of other problems that may plague the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.