Don't Hold World Cups in Developing Countries

I apologize for the non-Berlin related content. But Berliners love their soccer, and it's a soccer-related post works, right?

I read this fantastic piece by ESPN about the protests in Brazil, which were instigated by the enormous public expenditures to build infrastructure for the World Cup next year. The problem for the people is that billions are being sunk into stadiums, while the rest of the country's infrastructure is inadequate. Even worse, a lot of the money isn't accounted for, and the police have been extraordinarily violent. The takeaway:

The history of Brazil, however, is clear on this matter. There is a line. One of these bodies will be a body too many, or one exposed corruption will be a graft too far, and the youth will fill the streets, and the middle class will support them, verbally at first, then side-by-side, a small protest of 500 growing exponentially in a few days until a million people march down Rio Branco Avenue toward Cinelândia.

Brazil is a spark away.

I began thinking about a few other World Cup locations, especially the craziness of FIFA's decision to give the 2018 WC to Russia, 2022 to Qatar, and even the last world cup in 2010 in South Africa.

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, has often said that he wants his legacy to be having brought the World Cup to developing countries. I understand the positive element of that idea: democratizing the world's most popular game, and giving local people a chance to see World Cup soccer in person.

The problem is that money is spent on enormous infrastructure projects that don't directly benefit the people. Countries' political leaderships view the tournament as a vanity project, and make vague promises about how fancy new stadiums will stimulate economic development, etc. etc. I wonder what the lasting legacy of the 2010 South African World Cup is: have there been studies saying that it boosted the local economy? Improved education outcomes? Is the infrastructure even being used anymore?

The decision to give the 2018 to a politically un-free, highly corrupt country in Russia will simply continue the problem. Lots of money will be made by construction companies, while the people will be left with expensive cleanups. Same thing in 2022 in Qatar, where slave labor is apparently being used to build World Cup-related projects, and a French-Algerian soccer player was denied an exit visa for months because his employers refused to give him one. 

I understand that continuing to host the tournament in developed, mostly Western countries can seem unfair. But when the reality of hosting tournaments in developing countries is that the pockets of the rich are lined at the expense of the poor, then maybe democratizing the World Cup isn't worth the price.