I don’t know exactly what tipping point we reached last week, but it appears that the entire planet came to a mass realization that mega-events like the World Cup and the Olympics, far from being massive revenue generators for host cities, are gigantic money pits that any public official should run screaming from as fast as possible. Witness, all within the past seven days:
- Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter withdrew his city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, calling it “a tremendous, costly endeavor,” while a top aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he decided bidding on the Summer Games “doesn’t make sense.”
- Almost every formerly interested city has now pulled out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with Krakow joining Stockholm, Munich, and St. Moritz-Davos in deciding hosting the event would be too rich for their blood. The only bids left standing now are Oslo (where an upcoming referendum on hosting the Games is likely to go down to defeat), Lviv (which is in Ukraine, which has its own troubles), Beijing, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. “This is urgent,” said Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg. “We need to sit down and discuss what is going on. We are at a crossroads here.”
- The Japan Sports Council announced that it was trimming the budget of its planned $3 billion stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics by almost half, but a prominent local architect still decried the plans as “a sin” and “a crime” for being out of scale with its surroundings.
- After the UK’s Sunday Times revealed that former Qatari FIFA vice president Mohamed bin Hammam paid more than $5 million in bribes to have the 2022 World Cup awarded to his broiling-hot-in-the-summer-when-the-World-Cup-is-played nation, FIFA vice president Jim Boyce announced that he would support a re-vote on a new host for that year’s soccer tournament.
- It was announced that Itaquerao Stadium in São Paulo, which is supposed to host the 2014 World Cup opener in ten days, will only be able to open at 62% capacity for its final warm-up match, with the fire department having refused to issue a safety permit for one entire seating area.
No, it doesn’t mean that the World Cup and Olympics are now defunct, and will be replaced by one of those sporting events that involves everyone batting a giant ball into the air. But suddenly lots and lots of people are saying aloud that these mega-events tend toward being terrible catastrophes for the locales tabbed to host them, which isn’t a new concept, but isn’t usually discussed quite so widely. Though, of course, a few months ago people were actually interested in Russian human rights abuses against lesbians and gays, until they actually started playing sports and there was curling to watch, so maybe this is just the usual “the games haven’t started, we’re bored and have nothing to report on” run-up that will be completely forgotten later on.
Remember that human rights group charging that 4,000 workers will end up dying while building Qatar’s 2022 World Cup facilities? Now there’s a new report that says just in the last two years, 964 migrant workers have died in construction projects —and the new report is from the Qatari government itself:
The report by the international law firm DLA Piper calls for changes to the much-criticised kafala system that ties workers to their employers. It also contains the Qatari government’s own figure on the numbers of migrants who have died on its soil: 964 from Nepal, India and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013. In all, 246 died from “sudden cardiac death” in 2012, the report said, 35 died in falls and 28 committed suicide.
Note that that’s not only on World Cup facilities, but given that there are still eight years to go before 2022, that’s plenty of time to wrack up 4,000 soccer-specific deaths. And anyway, as Deadspin puts it:
A country that needs an independent law firm to tell it that hey, maybe it’s worth looking into why workers are just dropping dead from heart attacks for seemingly no reason is not one that should be hosting the World Cup.
After a long weekend thanks to the celebrations for the father of the transatlantic slave trade, I’m facing a busy work day and a pile of small stadium news items that I don’t want you guys to miss. So: bullet points it is!
- The “sky bridges” in the renovated Madison Square Garden turn out just to be a new deck of seats suspended from the ceiling. Also, pretty obtrusive to fans sitting in the back rows of what used to be the blue seats. And there’s still the low railings that will allow fans to drop beers on the heads of those in the pricey seats below them. A win-win-win!
- Some Minnesota Vikings fans say that personal seat licenses at the new stadium will make them give up their season tickets; others say they’ll just put off buying a new boat.
- San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee compared a new San Francisco Warriors arena to the Statue of Liberty, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler has brought out the sarcasm stick.
- Qatar’s plan for hosting the 2022 World Cup will cost an estimated $200 billion, including building a stadium for the final in a city that doesn’t exist yet. Also, an estimated 4,000 migrant workers will likely die building all this stuff. Maybe that Columbus guy isn’t sounding so bad by comparison.
Remember how Brazil is building $3.3 billion in stadiums for next year’s World Cup, including some in cities that don’t even have soccer teams? Apparently one of them, a $275 million facility in the city of Manaus, only has four World Cup matches total scheduled, after which nobody knows what to do with it — or nobody did know, until a Brazilian judge had a brainstorm:
Alvaro Corado, spokesman for the Amazonas state court system, told The Associated Press Tuesday that Judge Sabino Marques had proposed a novel idea.
“He would, perhaps, suggest to the government of the state of Amazonas that the stadium be used as a processing center for prisoners after the World Cup,” Corado said, quoting Marques.
Yes, a “novel idea.” Because that’s not going to bring up any uncomfortable associations at all.
Anyway, it’s just a suggestion, but one that helps indicate what a train wreck the 2014 World Cup is shaping up to be. Though at least eight years later Brazil will be able to point at the 2022 World Cup and say that at least its white elephant stadiums weren’t built by indentured servants.