The World Cup in Brazil could be a turning point for mega sporting events, Reuters reports, in the sense that governing organizations like FIFA and the International Olympics Committee might be forced to accept less ambitious bids for their competitions to reduce the risk of public backlash. Indeed, the 2014 World Cup opened in Sao Paulo on Thursday amid a backdrop of controversy and protest.
According to the report, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain set the standard for using large sporting events to drive infrastructure projects in an effort to regenerate big cities. But sports economists and even sources inside FIFA say spending on the 2014 World Cup, the most expensive ever at an estimated cost of $11.3 billion, will be hard to justify. "I think we are at a turning point in the history of mega-events and I think the turning point will lead to a very much reduced ambition towards infrastructure connected with these events," says Wolfgang Maennig, a professor at Hamburg University who specializes in sports economics.
Even FIFA indicates that spending on its events could be curtailed in the future. "The positive to be taken out of Brazil is that we have learned from it and will do things differently next time," an unnamed FIFA source tells Reuters, adding that Brazil should have cut the number of host cities from 12 and made good on the threat to move games if venues weren't ready in time.
However, changing the way these events are structured is not easy. In countries other than the most advanced soccer economies like the UK or Germany, stadiums have to be built and infrastructure improved to host an event like the World Cup. Perhaps one answer is to disperse major tournaments across countries as UEFA, soccer’s European governing body, has done with the 2020 European Championship, which will be held in 13 cities across Europe.