World Cup provides entertainment and economic benefits
IT'S not unusual that the opening match in the World Cup Finals is short on displays of brilliance. In most instances, players enter the game with caution, using it to measure their opponents, while going for a win to set them on a good path for the remainder of the tournament.
Yesterday's game between hosts Brazil and Croatia was just that, even as it provided some amount of drama with the own-goal scored by Brazilian Mr Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior in the 11th minute to put Croatia in the lead.
Brazilian fans, of course, rejoiced when their team drew level, then celebrated after a controversial penalty sent them ahead 2-1, and left the stadium overly happy with the final score -- 3-1 -- in their favour.
Regardless of how people may feel about yesterday's game, what is sure is that the spectacle that is the FIFA World Cup is well and truly underway and lovers of the game are in for a month of entertainment that has been correctly labelled 'The greatest show on Earth'.
No one can successfully argue against the fact the FIFA World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world. The magnitude of its reach is evident in its global television audience which totalled more than 26 billion for the 2006 finals in Germany.
It is that kind of exposure that drives the fierce bidding among countries to host the event every four years. For instance, the Football Federation of Australia committed more than $45 million in financial support in its bid to host the 2022 finals, which was eventually won by oil-rich Qatar. That, as we are now seeing, is mired in controversy and accusations of corruption involving former FIFA Vice-President Mr Mohamed bin Hammam.
Amid the Qatar controversy, reports are emerging that question Russia's successful bid for the 2018 finals. However, the head of Russia's bid team, Mr Alexey Sorokin, has said that his country acted with integrity during the bid process.
There are, of course, risks associated with hosting events of this size. The cost of constructing infrastructure and providing security tends to be huge, plus, there is the possibility of overruns. In addition, costs linked to underutilisation of facilities after the event, as well as displacement of non-event visitors, and the inconvenience the tournament causes residents can be significant.
Still, as we said, many countries jostle to host the event, as they recognise the economic benefits it holds -- increased tourism receipts, improved transportation systems and infrastructure, and increased spending on food, drinks and consumer items.
We don't envision Jamaica hosting a World Cup Finals. The costs, for us, are prohibitive. However, we have no doubt that Jamaica can benefit economically from qualifying for the event. It happened when we got to the 1998 finals in France.
This year, the countries that made it to Brazil are guaranteed US$12.5 million each -- the minimum paid to teams knocked out at the group stage. In addition, teams that make it to the quarter-finals are rewarded with US$25 million.
Imagine what that kind of money could do for our football programme.