Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pyeongchang! (or the sports suits do the right thing)


I’ve been pretty angry at the various international sporting associations that determine the locations of major events as of late. Tonight, I feel like these poo-bahs of sport finally did something right. The Winter Olympics are coming to Korea.

Before examining the current decision, let’s look at some recent decisions by these international sporting suits.

2010 - Winter Olympics in Vancouver, World Cup in South Africa - I’m okay with both of these choices. Pyeongchang (the winning town in South Korea’s Olympic bid) was narrowly defeated by Vancouver. At the time of the bidding, Korea did not have anywhere close to the Winter Olympic tradition that Canada did. I like making fun of Canada as much as the next guy, but Vancouver was absolutely the right choice, and probably the most interesting city to ever host the winter games. South Africa fell into FIFA’s commendable goal (no pun intended) to host their premier event in every continent. It was a smart place to host the event, although I’m sure the voters may have gone a different way if they could have predicted vuvuzelas.

2012 - Summer Olympics in London. Fair enough, London is certainly a real city. As I’ve stated before, in a lot of ways, London, New York, and Tokyo are the only real cities in the world. However, London has hosted the games twice before (though never since 1948). New York has never hosted. Also, the Summer Olympics were just in Europe in 2004. New York should have taken this.

2014 - Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Really? Where the hell is Sochi? Pyeongchang should have won this bid, but Russia won because Putin shockingly spoke English when giving his presentation. Also, I suppose saying no to Putin is generally a bad idea.

2014 - World Cup in Brazil. Sure. Nobody else bid for it. Plus, the WC hadn’t been in South America for some time. No problems here.

2016 - Summer Olympics in Rio. Bullshit. Given that Brazil was already getting the World Cup, and that Brazil isn’t exactly known for its infrastructure, this vote was in many ways a “fuck you” to America. Madrid came in second, even though their bid should have been dead in the water since London got 2012. Chicago should have absolutely won. How often does the IOC get a chance to host their event in the greatest city in the world?

2018 World Cup - Russia. I thought England got robbed. Soccer is religion there, and they haven’t hosted since 1966. Spain/Portugal or Belgium/Netherlands would have been better choices too. These are all real soccer countries, except for Belgium. Russia sucks at soccer. Had Moscow gotten the 2012 Olympics over London, I would have been fine with it, but England deserved to host this cup.

2022 World Cub - Qatar. Fucking fuck. Worst choice evar. USA, Korea, Japan, and Australia were far more worthy. Australia would be a new continent for Fifa to host from, and the Socceroos are regular participants in the event (plus, they’re called the Socceroos, so that’s fun). Japan and South Korea co-hosted a successful event in 2002, and both have moved forward in soccer ability since then. Both countries have good infrastucture and top notch stadiums that could host the event tomorrow. Both have several large cities. Between the two, my bias leans toward Korea, but Japan would have done a good job too. Of course, theses slights are just side dishes in this poo-poo platter. America really got fucked in this vote. Does FIFA want to make money? The 1994 US-hosted even is still the best-attended World Cup, even though the tournament has since been expanded from 24 to 32 teams. Does FIFA want to reach a new audience? When it comes to room for soccer expansion, the US is still the elephant in the room. Do they want infrastructure? Like in Korea and Japan, the US has the stadiums ready to go today. Plus, Arrowhead Stadium would have hosted games if the US had won, and that would be awesome. Qatar? Qatar? The entire country has a handful more people than the city of San Antonio, and two thirds of them are non-citizen guest workers.

Even America’s local event choices have been a bit weak as of late. Over the last 10 years, the Superbowl has been hosted by Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit, and suburban Dallas, suburban Phoenix, with Indianapolis coming this year (maybe) and an outdoor game in New Jersey in 2014. These are places where people want to vacation and party in February? Bill Simmons is right on this - the Superbowl should rotate between New Orleans, San Diego, and Miami, period.

This brings us back to Pyeongchang, and this sort of committee making the right call. Why will this work? Because Korea can run an event. The 2002 World Cup brought Korea out of the soccer doldrums, and the 1988 Seoul Olympics brought South Korea to democracy. Korea has its problems, which I haven’t been shy in pointing out in the past, but this is the sort of thing Korea does well. They built an auto industry and a ship-building industry largely from scratch. They’ve built world class road and rail systems in a couple of decades. Seoul probably has the best transit system in the world, and most of it didn’t exist 20 years ago. Pyeongchang itself is a backwater now (hell, I’ve never bothered to stop there) but I’m certain it will be world-class by 2018, with bullet trains connecting it to Seoul. Plus, unlike Russian or Qatari soccer and British or Brazilian Olympic prowess, Korea already has world champions in figure skating and speed skating, two of the biggest money sports in the winter games.

Well done and congrats, chingu. 화이팅!

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