Corruption, Discrimination, Doping: A treatise of issues mar the upcoming 2018 World Cup
With a little less than five months to go until the commencement of the 2018 World Cup, FIFA is mightily struggling to garner a requisite amount of sponsorships needed. This is one of several issues that has plagued the upcoming games, which is to take place in Russia.
The 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia was supposed to be a grandiose affair made to showcase Vladimir Putin’s ‘Great Russia.’ It was also the most expensive Olympics to date; at $51 billion dollars. (In comparison, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver cost $7 billion).
The 2018 World Cup is expected to reach costs as high as $12 billion. World Cups and Olympic Games are notorious for leaving host countries in a deficit, as many of the profits go to the governing body (FIFA, IOC) and numerous stadiums are unused after the games, leaving countries with an impossible financial situation to rectify. For example, in the 2010 Brazil World Cup, the city of Manaus had a stadium for the games constructed that cost $270 million. Because of it’s heavily isolated geographical position, pieces of the stadium had to be delivered through the Amazon river. The stadium has not been used since.
With the recent expulsion of Russia from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this year, the widespread doping scandal that ensnared the nation has also opened investigations into the countries soccer players. Yet, critics have argued that these investigations have been stymied, so to avoid a disaster of having a host countries team being expunged from the World Cup.
Russia will be under a heavy microscope during the month-long games, as Putin seeks his final term for re-election in March of 2018. It is his final global showcase to the rest of the world to prove the dynamism of his illustrious country.
Yet, Russia’s anti-gay legislation that was instituted in 2013 will certainly provoke more protests around the country the closer the games get. Its pathetic law made for “Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” has led to an increase in homophobia related violence and numerous condemnations from the United Nations, Amnesty International and other advocacy groups.
“The world is a place rich in natural beauty and cultural diversity, but also one where many are still deprived of their basic rights. FIFA now has an even greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration.”
This is FIFA’s official mission statement. Yet, it’s goal of touching the world through football has been fed through a clandestine ladder of immense illegal activities.
In 2015, numerous high-ranking FIFA executives were indicted on bribery charges relating to the bids of the 2010 (South Africa) World Cup and the 2011 Presidential election for FIFA. Bribery was also found to have been rampant to secure broadcasting rights for numerous World Cups.
There are also current investigations going on regarding the bids of the 2018 and 2022 (Qatar) World Cups.
These issues have led some pundits, like author Dave Zirin to declare the current situation of bribery and FIFA to “peanut butter and jelly.”
The crux of the issue is not specific people, but rather FIFA as a whole. It exists under this proverbial gray area, as it is not officially a business, NGO or governmental organization. It is akin to a member’s club, with members running the club however they so choose, dictatorial or not.
With the sport of soccer being the most played and watched sport in the world, viewership of the games should not be heavily impacted. However, the potential ramifications of Russia’s societal stances will be brightly monitored.