Jon McComb: B.C. and Chicago were right, the World Cup was a bad bet
Congratulations to B.C. premier John Horgan’s government for rejecting an open-ended blank cheque demand from FIFA, the world soccer body, in return for Vancouver maybe-hosting a couple of early World Cup matches in 2026.
A joint bid by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico would see 80 matches split between the three countries, with the U.S. getting the lion’s share at 60, while Canada and Mexico get 10 each.
With Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto also vying for Canadian matches, the fact is that Vancouver might have ended up with a couple of early round contests. But nothing from the quarter-finals onward to the World Cup itself — all of those games are in the U.S.
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Vancouver is in good company in not taking the FIFA ultimatum. The city of Chicago pulled out on Wednesday as well, for the very same reason.
In fact, the Chicago Mayor’s Office released a statement that largely echoed the stand of the B.C. government.
“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” read the statement.
“The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests,” it added.
The B.C. government would have had to cover, among other things, modifications to B.C. Place stadium, including a new grass playing surface, and the cost of security, which would be substantial. And anything else FIFA decided was necessary.
I like soccer and watch the World Cup on television. But let’s face it, FIFA has a history of fraud and bribery virtually unparalleled in the world of sport.
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Remember May 2015, when several officials were arrested during a morning raid on a hotel in Zurich? Since then, more than 40 FIFA officials and marketing executives have been charged by U.S. authorities, with 23 already pleading guilty.
Want more? Just look at where this year’s World Cup is being held: Russia, one of the most corrupt and anti-democratic places on earth.
And the B.C. Liberals want the provincial government to risk millions to go into business with FIFA? A deal that lets the soccer body change terms and conditions at its whim, no guarantees and no indemnity for losses?
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The boosters like to talk about all the attention Vancouver would receive from hosting a couple of matches. The hotels and restaurants and bars would do okay, but frankly, Vancouver doesn’t need more international attention right now.
We’re deep enough trying to deal with the unrelenting attention we’ve received from foreign money pumped into unaffordable real estate, world-class money laundering in our casinos and traffic and congestion that rivals L.A., which has five times as many people.
For what B.C. had to risk versus the possibility of getting a couple of preliminary round soccer matches and a couple nights of crowded bars, it just wasn’t worth it to taxpayers.
John Horgan and the NDP made the right call.
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