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The World Cup is one of the major sports tournaments meant to bring as many countries as possible in to engage in a soccer competition. For the next month or so, families, friends, and acquaintances come together to root for their country of choice as they duke it out on the field. Each World Cup also takes place in a different part of the world. This year it was in Russia, but the last World Cups have been in Brazil, South Africa, and Germany. How were these locations decided, and what does it take to host one of the largest sports events in the world?
Before a country starts having to build or prepare for their upcoming World Cup, they must be authorized to have it in their country. The next host country is decided through a bidding process. A prospective tournament country must commit under contract with FIFA (the soccer organization) that they will follow through with putting on the tournament if they are chosen to be the host of an upcoming World Cup (Goal). A single country can put out a bid, or two or more countries can volunteer to host the tournament (for instance, the United States, Mexico, and Canada all won a joint bid to host the World Cup in 2026) (Washington Post). There cannot be two consecutive World Cups in the same country, meaning that, for instance, the next World Cup, after Russia, cannot be in Europe. The final voting is carried out by FIFA through an executive committee comprising of a president, 7 vice presidents (one for each continent), and 15 elected members. They all receive a ‘bid book’ comprising of all of the bidding countries’ strengths and weaknesses when it comes to hosting, taking into account the cost, economic growth, profitability for FIFA, and social impact of the cup taking place in their country. After FIFA picks the host country, it’s time for the country to start getting to work to prepare.
Preparing and executing the World Cup requires an immense amount of logistics, infrastructure, and money to be able to properly host a tournament. A country has to build new stadiums to be able to host the teams as well as make sure that there is a sufficient amount of space for the new influx of tourists. Much of the money comes out of public funds. For instance, for the 2018 World Cup, Russia has spent the equivalent of $11.8 billion dollars already to pay for the world cup, $600 million dollars over its initial budget (USA News). More than half of that money comes from government funds. FIFA professes that they pay for all the operating costs but not the infrastructure costs (FIFA). For instance, for Brazil who hosted the 2014 World Cup, the total costs ended up being $15 billion. However, FIFA set up a legacy fund for Brazil amounting to $100 million dollars to offset the cost (USA News). A lot of the stadiums built for the World Cup are referred to as ‘white elephants’ since they are expensive and never quite make back the money it took to build it.
It is also important to note that there are some benefits to hosting the World Cup in a nation. For instance, the amount of preparation and building it takes to run the tournament brings an immense amount of economic and job growth for a country. The amount of revenue from tourists and merchandise helps offset the immense cost. For instance, Russia is feeling optimistic that the World Cup will bring in up to $30 billion in tourist and investment revenue (Reader’s Digest). It is hard to say at this point whether or not this will actually be true in the long run.
While the World Cup is a commonly known and recognized sporting event, it takes a long process of bidding and preparation to be able to get a country into shape for hosting this giant tournament. After the country is picked, it will spend billions of dollars worth of public money to build stadiums and prepare for the upcoming tournament. FIFA only works to provide reimbursement for operations, so it is up to the country to fork over the costs for construction and services needed to provide a safe enjoyable tournament for tourists.The World Cup also has a chance to bring a lot of tourists and money into a country, perhaps helping the country in the long run. The World Cup may be expensive, but it also has a way of bringing people together across the world in friendly competition, providing a less tangible value than the bottom line.