Why Chicago Olympic loss means absolutely nothing for US World Cup Bids

Am I shocked that Chicago bombed out of the 2016 Olympic bidding? Not really.

Am I shocked that they bombed out in the first round of voting? Yes, quite a bit.

I should add that I have always been an enthusiast and supporter of the Olympics and, had I stayed a sportswriter, aimed towards someday covering the Olympics as a beat. So I’ve read and still read a lot about the games, the IOC and its politics.

That said, American soccer fans should not allow Chicago’s defeat a moment’s worry when it comes to the World Cup bidding process. Here why:

1. The IOC’s politics are way more unpredictable and opaque than FIFA’s. The IOC has all kinds of influences and stakeholders that might not be as obvious to observers as those within FIFA. Here are some examples.

FIFA’s Confederations make for more bloc voting, which both corrupts and simplifies the process. Meaning when Jack Warner or Issa Hayatou promises their confederations’ support, they not only mean it, but can get it done too. Have no doubts that CONCACAF will vote as a block (even Mexico) in favor of the US hosting a World Cup. The IOC and any alliances/blocs within it, tend to be harder to read. It’s well known for example that FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s powerbase consists of CONCACAF, Asia and the Persian Gulf states especially. If Blatter says he favors “X,” it’s safer to assume that thus CONCACAF, AFC, and the Gulf States will go with him. Also, look and see where FIFA Goal Program funding is going. You can almost guarantee these countries will side with Blatter. This sounds paradoxical, but FIFA is so obviously corrupt it almost makes it more transparent.

Within the IOC, it’s less clear and involves more figures “outside” the formal process. For example, I can guarantee you that both overtly and covertly, former IOC head JA Samaranch will have played a major role in pushing Madrid. Also, I suspect the fact that the IOC has yet to sell the rights to the 2016 games to a North American TV network (either NBC-Universal or ABC/ESPN) hurt Tokyo, whose distant timezone would lower the value of the rights. The unpredictability can wow even the most tuned in observers as evidenced by London’s win over what appeared to many as the better bid from Paris.

2. Don’t forget that it’s nearly a completely different set of people voting for the World Cup. Out of the 90 or so people on the IOC, I only count two (Blatter, Hayatou) who will have anything official to do with the World Cup vote.

3. As bad as the USSF is, the USOC might be in even worse shape. This will be hard for people on here to believe, but the US Olympic Committee might be even worse run than US Soccer. Unlike USSF, the US Olympic committee has been hemorrhaging sponsors in recent years including General Motors, The Home Depot and Bank of America. The committee’s leadership has been in flux throughout the late stages of the bid. That is unlikely be the case with the World Cup bid as Sunil Gulati appears secure and Chuck Blazer and his XXXXXXL pants don’t appear to be going anywhere. Also, consider this, Former MLS commish Doug Logan is a major player within the USOC as the head of USA Track and Field. As we learned in the early years of MLS, that is no good thing. More than anything else, I suspect the IOC simply didn’t want to risk working with a National Olympic Committee that didn’t appear to have its managerial ducks in a row.

4. There might be more support amongst average Americans for hosting a World Cup than there was in Chicago for the Olympics. I was stunned to see how “blah” Chicago residents appeared to be about hosting the Olympics. Polls had supporters leading opponents by only two percentage points. I think for a number of reasons, that number amongst Americans would be quite a bit higher for a World Cup. It won’t cost individual municipalities too much (police overtime comes to mind, though) to host the World Cup matches at (most crucially) the already built stadiums. Olympics games (especially Summer ones) are extraordinarily expensive ventures. A US World Cup, I don’t think is. I don’t think we’ll see a opposition group nearly as well-organized or vocal to the World Cup as we saw against with Chicago.

5. Technically, a US World Cup bid is better than Chicago’s Olympic bid could ever hope to be. Chicago’s bid required the funding and construction of an Olympic Stadium, an aquatic center, and the Olympic Village amongst many other venues. A US World Cup bid won’t require any of that. Our stadiums are built, and our hotel rooms are plentiful. One other thing that US Soccer won’t have to worry about are legacy uses/costs, which are a huge part of bidding for an Olympics. No one has to worry about any of the prospective World Cup stadiums not being utilized once the soccer ends. Most of them will be full yet again just a month or so post-tournament when football season starts up again.

6. The passion will be there for the World Cup bid. Only a few minutes after Chicago’s loss, we’re hearing that Chicago’s bid didn’t have enough “passion” behind it. Well, I can see how that might be the case if you can barely muster a plurality of local support behind it. The World Cup bid is one of the ONLY things in American soccer that EVERYONE in the sport here supports wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter which faction of American soccer you participate in or which corner of American soccer fandom you reside in, you support the US getting a second World Cup. Even me, king of the cynics, is hugely excited at the thought of hosting a World Cup in the US.

I’ll have more on this later as more of the fallout develops.


28 thoughts on “Why Chicago Olympic loss means absolutely nothing for US World Cup Bids

  1. Indeed. When its a city vs. city competition, there are no guarantees the American venue will come out on top. But for something like the World Cup, the size and quality of our stadiums is unparalled and our cities as a collection of 10-12probably beat any other country in the world. These bids are apples and oranges.

  2. The US hosting a World Cup gives CONCACAF a default 4th automatic bid. The US gets in as host nation leaving us out of qualifying for the 3 auto slots.

  3. All, good points and I do think the US has a very strong bid and chance of 18 or 22. Otoh, one factor in common between the two bids is the Cuba fiasco in the ’06 World Baseball Classic. Although they were eventually permitted to play (after agreeing to donate their earnings to Katrina victims, money which the US government later confiscated!!) , the IOC indicated through its comments that it wasn’t exactly impressed by the US’s conduct. Throw in the fact that there is a strong perception in many parts of the world that the US has become a very uninviting country to gain entry to, and there are some headwinds that the US is up against too. Enough to sway a vote though? Probably not.

  4. When I think of Olympic hopefuls, I think of what the beauty shots would look like when they are running billbaords on TV. It was a no-briainer

  5. Haha, I too was like WTF about Brazil’s Olympic/World Cup tandem. Didn’t even think about us in the 90’s.

    Good point!

  6. I do think that barriers to entry present one of the bigger hurdles to the US hosting these tourneys. Every once in a while some bigwig wants to jet-set to the US and faces a long wait to get in, or gets that little something extra from airport security, and it causes a bunch of ill will.

  7. The US’s best argument is WC94. It was pretty good, actually. . . but it can get a lot better this time. Back then, the organizers had to convince the cities involved that this thing would work. Now, no one needs convincing. Cities (Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta) some of whom made half-efforts before are forming bid committees now to try and get games.

    Also, the media wasn’t exactly sure what would happen until it happened. This time they know 4 million attendance is a good bet, and there will be excellent lead-in and preparation.

  8. Yeah, God forbid you should sell out huge stadia for the World Cup and have almost zero policing trouble. That’d be a shame.

  9. On point #4, if you lived here, you wouldn’t be so stunned. We had no business hosting the Olympics. We already have high taxes and are in terrible financial shape (one of the many problems in this city). We can’t afford to fix potholes or salt streets in the winter anymore, so ignore the lies from our political corruption machine

    And yes, I would very much support the World Cup. One city alone not stuck with a cluster******** or a huge bill. And actually getting to see the world’s best in a sport I care about (olympic soccer is okay, but everyone knows the attention is at the Euros)

  10. futbolista, I can see why there would be concern based on Chicago’s current financial state, but wouldn’t hosting the Olympics be a tremendous longterm investment? I assume the revenue would greatly surpass the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on building various Olympic facilities. So while taxes may go up for a couple years, I think you’d be looking at some pretty significant cuts to make up for it for many years after the Olympics would have occurred.

    Of course, any such discussion is completely irrelevant, because Chicago didn’t get the Games. I’d rather have seen them in Madrid, but Rio will be a great host as well!

  11. Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to build a dozen sporting venues that will never be useful again. Montreal is the famous worst-case-scenario, the Olympics having put them in debt for 30+ years after the games. LA and Atlanta made a profit, but it’s no guarantee, and you have to ‘economize’ (which might be what the IOC voted against).

  12. While American immigration officials treat everyone from overseas as criminals first and visitors second, no sporting organization in its right mind will bring a huge event to the US. Forget the World Cup

  13. Actually, I would support a WC bid here in the US. Our logistics and security capabilities are unparalelled. An example would be how quickly we organized a successfull WWC in 03? after the SARS scare in China. And that happened with only about 6 months warning and preparations. Go USA!

  14. I don’t disagree with that, but none of those events has the drawing power the WC or the Olympics have.

    If you have ever had to deal with customs and passport control, you know they are not the nicest or smartest of people. If anything they are rude, arrogant, and with an over inflated sense of importance of what they are really doing.

    I was detained by a passport control in Chicago for 4 hours because according to the woman my Texan drawl sounded like, and i quote “You’s from Ireland or Britain or something” and had probably stolen or was using a fake passport. Not even after producing a valid license was i spare having to wait 4 hours till i got to talk to another official, who just looked embarrassed and sent me on my way after a 30 second conversation.

    Having worked in IT and meeting a lot of foreigners who work in that field my story pales in comparison to some of the stuff they go through, despite the fact that most of them are legal residents and the others are here on work visas. IF the rumors about this is what cost Chicago the Olympics is true, then the US WC bid is in serious trouble.

  15. considering this is bigsoccer i guess i shouldn’t be surprised that this would even need to be written as an article but i guess it’s not obvious to some. Of course it doesn’t matter.

  16. IMO this is the best scenario and probably the reason they got it. Brazil is already going to upgrade everything for the World Cup – Rio will basically be ready to host the Olympics by 2014 with 2 extra years to make some tweaks for the actual event. Brazil isn’t exactly the richest country so not having to go “out of their way” to set up for the Olympics is a huge plus for everyone involved – there won’t be all this moaning like the last couple about whether the country will be ready in time or not – remember everyone complaining “Greece isn’t going to be done in time”? Well damn, Rio’s going to be done 2 years early.

  17. “But for something like the World Cup, the size and quality of our stadiums is unparalled and our cities as a collection of 10-12probably beat any other country in the world”

    Yeah, like RFK for example… what are you talking about? Stadia in the US are good, but they are not soccer stadia, except – maybe, we’ll see next year – the Red Bull Arena… unless you plan to play in C’bus or RSL etc (but then capacity is very limited). Around the world you can find much better soccer stadia, just think of Korea & Japan, or Germany last world cup…

  18. I think the main reason why O.G. went to Rio is because Brazil was the country least affected by the economic crisis; US, Japan and Spain are suffering at this time enormously more than Brazil is. Plus, Brazil has already to get ready for the WC 2014 (see post above) and they’ll just take advantage of the situation to set up everything for the O.G. as well… I would have never thought they would get it (I honestly thought Tokyo) but thinking it over after the decision, it makes a lot of sense…

  19. “Throw in the fact that there is a strong perception in many parts of the world that the US has become a very uninviting country to gain entry to”

    You have no idea of how this is true; I work in a travel agency, we do both outgoing and incoming, you have no idea of the BS foreign tourists have to face in order to enter the country – even as simple tourists staying for a week or so. Then, the assistance to foreign tourists (who many times speak just a very broken english and are not familiar with local customs at all) is basically non-existant, and that does certainly not help the situation at all.

  20. Amen to that, like is said before, it seems they main qualification to become a customs officer is to be stupid and surly (I think being outright racist is also a big plus).

  21. Yes busbyboy…it was so terrible it still holds the all time attendance record…

    There are a dozen stadiums in the US that hold more people than Wembley, and a half dozen that hold more than Camp Nou…..the fact of the matter is, if you want to see World Cup matches live, your best bet is for the United States to host the World Cup…..particularly if your primary currency is the pound or euro….it’d be a hell of a value…

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