Sports

FIFA and the Olympics: corruption and bribes in mega-events

Why is Qatar hosting a World Cup? How can FIFA allow a country that is so clearly unfit and ill-equipped take on this duty? Let us examine the last time a country was unprepared to host a “mega-sporting event.”
In the days leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil’s political scene was in shambles as president Dilma Rousseff had just been impeached. Economically, the nation was going through its largest recession since the Great Depression. Concerns about the Zika virus ran rampant. The city of Rio experienced various violent attacks and killings. Just weeks before the games, human limbs had washed up on the same beach that was to be used for the beach volleyball tournament. This is just touching on some of the many issues that arose from the Olympic Games in Rio.

In Qatar, problems have arisen on par with those experienced by the Rio Games. Since construction on the soccer stadiums began, working conditions have been questioned. The labor force has been referred to as “modern day slaves” by various human rights organizations. The conditions are so bad that a lawsuit over alleged mistreatment of migrant workers has been filed by the Dutch trade union FNV against FIFA. So, how did we get to this point? How is it that we are giving these events to countries that cannot afford the infrastructure needed without using slave labor? The short answer is money, but I want to go a little deeper.

To start, let’s take a look at the economics of a mega-sporting event. Why is hosting a World Cup or an Olympics such a huge deal for a country? Pretend that you lead the host country of one of these tournaments. One of these events will attract millions of people from all over the world. This means that for the period of time that you are hosting the Games, or World Cup, you have millions of tourists sightseeing in your country, buying souvenirs in your gift shops, buying food from your vendors and generally stimulating the economy. This is huge for a nation’s GNP. All this money flowing through a country reaps huge benefits. Capital will keep circulating throughout the economy, leading to an increase in the wealth of both everyday people and the government. This provides a huge incentive for many countries, especially developing ones, to host an Olympics even when they know they might not be prepared to do so.

This huge influx of cash does so much for an economy that countries will actually shell out millions of dollars in bribes in order to host such an event. In May 2015, the FBI indicted 14 people involved with FIFA for accepting kickbacks. It was discovered that $10 million (that was previously given to FIFA from the president of the South African Football Association) was transferred to an account controlled by the Vice President of FIFA. This resulted in the 2010 World Cup being given to South Africa. Granted, South Africa succeeded in pulling off a great World Cup, but this isn’t the point. The point is that corruption has worked its way up the ladder in FIFA.

Currently there are whispers of foul play circling about Qatar hosting the World Cup. If these whispers are proven to be true, I have only one question. How can FIFA be okay with giving the World Cup to a nation that cannot afford to build a suitable place to play the games without violating basic human rights? I understand the desire to make money, but the corruption at this level has gone much too far. FIFA is taking advantage of people, and this is simply unacceptable, especially coming from an organization as large and far reaching as FIFA.

October 28, 2016

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