World Cup 2014 Coverage
2:42 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Go Ahead, Host A Giant Sports Spectacular. But It Will Cost You

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 1:27 pm

Wednesday welcomes the year's second global sports extravaganza, as the World Cup begins. Just a few months ago, we worried that terrorists would invade the Russian Olympics. Now we wait to see if riots will tarnish the Brazilian World Cup.

The organizations that run the two events are similar, in that they manage to get cities and countries the earth over to do their bidding at exorbitant costs. Both the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, are arrogant and pretty much operate above sensible guidelines that governments otherwise demand of organizations.

Without soccer as its calling card, the IOC must take the high road –– as in high and mighty. It self-righteously sells sport as spiritual. It's dumping its big tent on Rio in two years, so if the World Cup doesn't bring the nation to economic despair, the Olympics will.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on the issue.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Commentator Frank Deford says the organization that runs the World Cup and the organization that runs the Olympics both have problems to overcome that have nothing to do with Brazil.

FRANK DEFORD: So tomorrow welcomes the year's second global sports extravaganza as the World Cup begins. Just a few months ago, we worried that terrorists would invade the Russian Olympics. Now we wait to see if riots will tarnish the Brazilian World Cup. The organizations that run the two events are similar in that they manage to get cities and countries the earth over to do their bidding at exorbitant cost. Both the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, and FIFA, which if you care to know stands for Federation Internationale de Futbol Association, are arrogant and pretty much operate above sensible guidelines that governments otherwise demand of mere organizations. Both have been rife with corruption through the years.

Even now as the World Cup begins, The New York Times has accused international soccer of being riddled with fixed games, while the Sunday Times of London has charged that bribes led FIFA to curiously award the 2022 cup to a little inferno of a place that nobody can even agree how to pronounce. With apologies to Ira Gershwin - you say cutter, I say Qatar - cutter, Qatar. Let's call the whole thing off.

FIFA tends to be smug. They are soccer, which rules the hearts of most humans on most continents - this one and Antarctica being accepted. The head of FIFA is one Sepp Blatter, the smarmy satrap of soccer - the fatuous pharaoh of football. In Dave Zirin's fascinating book, "Brazil's Dance With The Devil," the author points out how Blatter likes to demand what he calls FIFA quality stadiums, which is why Brazil has been bullied into building or rehabilitating a full dozen of them, leading deprived citizens down there to facetiously ask the government pretty please for FIFA quality hospitals and schools.

Without soccer as its calling card, the IOC must take the high road, as in the high and mighty. It self-righteously sells sport as spiritual. Not even the NCAA does that. It's dumping its Big 10 on Rio in two years. So if the World Cup doesn't bring the nation to economic despair, the Olympics will.

The jig may be finally up, though, as the IOC is staring at a situation where it wants to hold a party but is having trouble finding new suckers to pay for the privilege. Candidates for the 2022 Winter Games, from Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Poland, have already pulled out, and Norway appears to follow suit. This would leave Lviv, which is in Ukraine - assuming that's where it would still be in 2022 - Almaty, which is in Pakistan - wherever that is - and Beijing, which is in the smog. Hope reigns that the United States will keep our troops off foreign soil and keep FIFA and the IOC off our American soil.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF").

FRED ASTAIRE: (Singing) You say either. I say either.

MONTAGNE: And you can hear what Frank the Deford has to say every Wednesday on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.