SBD/Issue 175/Events & Attractions

World Cup Generating Unprecedented Hype In United States

Americans Have Bought More World Cup Tickets
Than Fans From Any Country But South Africa

This summer's FIFA World Cup is "generating some serious buzz" in the U.S., according to Nancy Armour of the AP. Americans have bought more tickets to the World Cup "than people from any country besides host South Africa -- despite the lengthy and expensive trip." ESPN also is "planning the kind of broadcast bonanza normally reserved for a Super Bowl," and players are "edging supermodels off magazine covers." But U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said, "We've still got a long way to go to have the following, the enthusiasm, the relevance that you might have in England or Germany or Brazil. We're in progress but we're not there yet. Having it woven into society, that's a long-term challenge." But Armour wrote the game's "growth over the last 20 years has put U.S. Soccer, MLS, broadcasters and corporate sponsors in their best position yet to capitalize on the enthusiasm from the monthlong tournament." Gulati: "We're going to have watercooler talk this summer, no doubt about that. The question is how much does it go beyond that?" Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill said that soccer "is on the 'cusp,'" and predicted that the sport "will be bigger than the NHL in 10 years." Armour wrote the quality in MLS "isn't anywhere close to Europe's top leagues, but the gap is narrowing," and as "everyone is quick to point out, the league is still in its infancy." MLS Commissioner Don Garber: "We still have most of our growth to do, and most of our opportunities are still in front of us" (AP, 5/20).

SOUTH AFRICA'S OWN: In N.Y., Celia Dugger notes South Africans have sought "to get easier access to tickets, to see their wealth of musicians included in the FIFA concert and to ensure that more World Cup souvenirs were made in South Africa." Out of this, they have "won modest victories that will give the slickly marketed, corporate-branded, monthlong sports spectacular splashes of African authenticity." With South Africa "about to find itself in the center of world soccer, patriotic spirit is rising" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/24).

SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOLARS WEIGH IN: In the May/June issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Nicolas van de Walle reviews “Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 Football World Cup,” a collection of essays by South African academics and policy experts assessing the World Cup's impact on the nine cities where matches will be held. Van de Walle notes “for the most part, the contributors are skeptical about the economic benefits.” The contributing scholars note “previous World Cup host countries saw only minimal net increases in tourism, and the overall economic gains are unlikely to compensate for the enormous cost of building new sports stadiums and improving urban infrastructure (notably, public transportation).” Van de Welle notes “nonetheless, the contributors praise the selected cities for coming up with pragmatic strategies to maximize the long-term benefits of the resources they have received for hosting the month-long event” (FOREIGN AFFAIRS, May/June ’10 issue)

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