Spain has now won its first World Cup! What an exciting finish to the competition, with the winning goal scored in extra time. I was very impressed by the fact that the competition this year garnered unprecedented viewership and interest in the United States. That’s a great development, especially as America seeks to become a host for a future World Cup.
Former President Bill Clinton has been named honorary chairman of the committee that is spearheading an effort to get the World Cup soccer championship in 2018 or 2022 for the United States. Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and chairman of the USA Bid Committee, has gathered a host of famous American to promote the bid.
The committee includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actors Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, comedian Drew Carey, former boxer Oscar De La Hoya, American soccer stars Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, director Spike Lee and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The U.S. bid involves the use of 18 possible host cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
I personally loved what President Clinton said when interviewed about the push for America to be the host. According to Clinton, one benefit of the U.S. bid is the likelihood of packed stadiums, given the large number of soccer fans who live in the United States but support other nations when it comes to soccer. Also, he noted that we have 21 existing stadiums, most of which have been renovated in the past few years.
He said that the United States could offer just about every other nation in the world a home crowd because of our status as a nation composed of immigrants. (I can’t help but think of the irony of the latest effort to demonize immigrants, especially Arizona’s recent law that just about guarantees that the police will have a free pass to racially profile anyone of Hispanic origin. That won’t help the World Cup host cause.)
President Clinton reminded his interviewer that,”hosting a World Cup in the United States where about 12 percent of the population is foreign born will ensure high attendance for every match played “because we will have lots of fans for every team that shows up.”
The United States, Australia, England, Russia and a pair of joint-bids from Belgium/Netherlands and Spain/Portugal are bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. The hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup will be decided at a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee in December. There are additional countries vying for the 2022 World Cup.
President Clinton used some of his persuasive magic during this year’s World Cup, as he sat next to FIFA’s head, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter. Not only that, but President Obama hosted Blatter at the White House recently, and though basketball is his game, Mr. Obama described how he loved playing soccer as a young boy in Indonesia.
The economic benefits of hosting the World Cup were emphasized by former President Clinton.
“That means that if we get the (World Cup) there will be an economic stimulus estimated between $400-$600 million per host city,” he said. “That will be very good for a lot of families that are still hurting, a lot of communities that are still digging out from under the current economic crisis.”
Only time will tell if the Clinton magic can outdo the heavyweight that Great Britain is throwing into the bidding war: David Beckham, who is ready to remind all that it’s been over 50 years since England hosted a World Cup. Let’s hope this time he can’t “bend” the committee to his argument.
I’ll just add that the United States has been late in coming to an appreciation of soccer – or “football” – but our time has finally come. In the last couple of decades, a whole generation of our young people have participated in soccer leagues and gained a great respect for this game, which is truly the world’s sport.