The 2018 FIFA World Cup is now among the most eagerly awaited global events. This quadrennial grand sporting spectacle to be held in 11 cities of Russia this year between mid-June and mid-July will mesmerize soccer fans all over the globe. Millions will be glued to television screens wanting to catch every moment of every game; those millions that is, who are not fortunate enough to witness the matches live and have to watch from their homes instead. The FIFA World Cup is more than a sporting extravaganza. It is magic…
There are several such sporting events that take place every few years (some like the tennis grand slams happen every year) and bring the host cities under the global spotlight. These cities become much talked about and researched. With high quality television broadcasting now reaching every corner of the world, these cities are able to reach out to populations in faraway lands like never before. The host city for such international sporting events is thus presented with several unique opportunities while being confronted with many challenges at the same time. Cities vie for the honour of hosting the events several years in advance and have the opportunity to become new economic powerhouses and drive prosperity as a result of the global limelight that they attract before and during the event. Cities need to prepare well so that they are able to assimilate all the developments in a sustainable manner and need to ensure that the city residents are much better off after the event rather than left in despair and distress.
World class infrastructure
Among the most obvious and valuable acquisitions by the city is world-class physical infrastructure. We are likely to see rapid roll-out of spanking new roads, bridges, mass transport options, hotels, parks and so on. This new addition can happen in a short span of four-five years and actually transform the city into a glittering metropolis, something which could take a lifetime if it were not for the hosting of the grand event.City managers and urban planners will have to ensure that these facilities and infrastructure that get added are such that they will yield valuable dividend for several years after the event and trigger further economic development. For example six venues in the Rio Olympic Park will form the nucleus of Brazil’s first Olympic Training Centre and a handball venue is being converted into four schools.
Thomas Bach, President International Olympic Committee, writing the Foreword to the Olympic Review, a publication of the Olympic Games Global Impact (OGGI), a few months before the opening of the Rio Games, said“….Meanwhile in an early sign of the legacy the Olympic Games will leave behind, a sophisticated Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system that will link the four Olympic venue clusters has already played a key role in transforming Rio de Janeiro’s transport system. It will increase access to high-capacity transport for Rio de Janeiro’s population from 19 percent to 63 percent in 2016. It is just one example of the tremendous legacy the Olympic Games will leave.”
“We have built a fantastic legacy for the city that was only possible thanks to the Olympic Games”observed Eduardo Paes, the Mayor of Rio.
The superior infrastructure created in preparation for the event can spur all-round economic development whether in industrial manufacturing or knowledge based sectors. Housing, power, water, roads and transport are among the key inputs that drive economic activity and these cities, after the event, are likely to have the best in each category and are therefore well-placed to deliver substantial growth in employment and self-employment. This in turn can attract the finest national and international talent and resources, thereby putting in place a virtuous cycle of development and prosperity.
The immense potential of tourism is among the biggest spin-offs of such international events for cities. The city is eager to put on its best in time for the guests from around the globe who will be arriving soon. Contingents will include players, athletes, support staff and officials. In addition will be the huge number of spectators from around the globe. Even those who do not actually visit the city for the events will get several glimpses and stories about the host city on their television screens 24×7, generally in between coverage of the events. This exposure can bring long lasting benefits to the city in terms of increased tourism with its large multiplier effects.According to a study by Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism after the Rio Olympics, 87% of foreign tourists have the intention to come back to Brazil and 94% want to visit Rio de Janeiro again
FIFA reports that nearly 1.7 million tickets have been allotted for the 2018 World Cup during sales phases 1 & 2 against a total demand of over 4 million. 45 percent of the demand was from overseas, mainly from Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Spain, Colombia, USA and Netherlands.
Some challenges too
Along with the opportunities will be several challenges. One could be possible dislocation of parts of the city population, usually the poor including hawkers and street-vendors. As land is acquired for building more roads, stadia and hostels, some people could get displaced in the process. Street-side shops and hawkers along roads leading to event venues may have to make way. Sometimes this dislocation is temporary, but often with permanent facilities coming up, the dislocation could be forever. Cities will need to resettle these vulnerable sections of the populations in a just and fair manner.
Security provision is a massive, complex and intense activity especially in light of recent terror attacks in large prominent cities. A global scale sporting event like the Olympics or the World Cup Soccer presents a large number of vulnerable targets and makes policing very challenging. The lure of grabbing world headlines and prime news hour space make it specially enticing for the terrorist. The city will have to pool together resources from diverse areas and put in place very hi-tech measures to protect itself and its guests.
In the context of the Russia World Cup Soccer, Helmut Spahn, Director Security at FIFA, is confident that all necessary arrangements have been made to stage a well-organized and secure tournament. “The most important thing is to have a proper risk assessment on a daily basis and then the challenges can be solved if we are working on a professional level together with all the stakeholders,” he said.
And then there is the spectre of huge debt overhang on the cities. While funding for such events will come from a variety of sources including the national budget, international organisers and sponsors, large funds will need to be raised by the cities themselves, often to be serviced over many long years thereafter.
It is thus apparent that the hosting of such mega sporting events or expos can have significant impacts –opportunities and challenges- in several dimensions.
www.rt.com in a report quotes FIFA’s Head of Sustainability and Diversity Federico Addiechi. “FIFA has set up a very comprehensive sustainability strategy for the 2018 FIFA World Cup which encompasses of course all three aspects of sustainability: the social, the environmental and the economic ones,” he said. “In a nutshell, we want to maximize the positive impact that the World Cup has on society, the environment and economy and minimize the risks associated with the event in all those three aspects.”he adds.
What are these impacts and what is their net effect? In an attempt to help find answers to several of such questions, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), launched the Olympic Games Global Impact (OGGI) study. OGGI works to support the IOC in assessing and guiding the various stakeholders who work on the preparation for and hosting of Olympic Games. Among the objectives is to assist the bidding cities with strategic inputs and thereby maximize the potential benefits of hosting the games.
In addition, in order to maintain the long-term viability of the games, the IOC in December 2014, adopted the Olympic Agenda 2020 – a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. Among the three broad pillars of Olympic Agenda 2020 is Sustainability. The half-time assessment report put out in September 2017 states thatduring the Olympic Games Rio 2016 the most comprehensive carbon mitigation programme in Olympic history was implemented which enabled 2.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions by 2026. Further, Tokyo the host of the 2020 games will save USD 2.2bn using the Olympic Agenda 2020.
As for soccer fans all over the globe, they are keenly counting down to the grand unveiling on June 14 of the Magic called FIFA World Cup 2018.