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Developing Countries Winning Mega Sporting Events

By Spiro Doukas, Ph.D
Special to Sports Fitness Network

This article is a special repost from the Global Sport Management News Newsletter.

A look at the past twenty two years of the two largest global sporting events (The Summer Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup) and countries that have hosted them reveals an interesting trend regarding the traditional hosting nation and future hosting nations. Traditionally host nations are developed countries in North America, Western Europe or the Far Eastern Pacific Rim. Using the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook Report of April, 2011 it becomes obvious that the world’s prominent, large sport governing bodies currently prefer developing countries to showcase their mega events.

  • 1990: FIFA World Cup in Italy (Considered a major advanced economy; G7 )
  • 1992: Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain (Considered an advanced economy )
  • 1994: FIFA World Cup in the United States (Considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 1996: Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States (Considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 1998: FIFA World Cup in France (Considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 2000: Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia (Considered an advanced economy)
  • 2002: FIFA World Cup; joint hosting with South Korea and Japan (South Korea is considered advanced economy since 1997; Japan is considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 2004: Olympic Games in Athens, Greece (Considered advanced economy since 1998)
  • 2006: FIFA World Cup in Germany (Considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 2008: Olympic Games in Beijing, China (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy but newly industrialized as of 2011)
  • 2010: FIFA World Cup in South Africa (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy but newly industrialized as of 2011)
  • 2012: Olympic Games in London, England (Considered a major advanced economy; G7)
  • 2014: FIFA World Cup in Brazil (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy but newly industrialized as of 2011)
  • 2016: Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy but newly industrialized as of 2011)
  • 2018: FIFA World Cup in Russia (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy)
  • 2020: Olympic Games to be awarded (Candidates include Istanbul, Turkey, Tokyo, Japan; Tokyo, Rome, Italy; Baku, Azerbaijan; Doha, Qatar; and Madrid, Spain)
  • 2022: FIFA World Cup in Qatar (Categorized as an emerging and developing economy)

Reasons for FIFA and the IOC looking towards developing countries vary. One reason is strategy. FIFA has now stamped itself on the hearts of the African youth from South Africa, 2010. FIFA is strategizing the same for Russia (2018), which is a country on both the Asian and European continent and entering the Middle Eastern market through Qatar (2022). “This decision is consistent with FIFA’s philosophy of developing world football, especially in regions of the world where this development is needed,” stated Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA.

The IOC since 2004 has gone from Greece to China to England and South America in Rio de Janeiro. China and Brazil are two large growing economies and China spent over $40 Billion dollars on the 2008 Olympics. Brazil will surely have their own successful Olympics to show the world that they are indeed open for global business.

Other reasons are that citizens in developing countries generally do not have the communal power or community watch dogs to resists large infrastructure projects. The community watch dog of Toronto “Bread Not Circuses” helped persuade Olympic officials to not choose this large Canadian city to be host of the 2008 Olympic Games. This union of left and green groups quarreled that the Olympics negatively affected the poor and underprivileged, the environment and the homeless. This union also argued that to pay for the Olympics funds would be taken away from health, welfare and environment budgets, where it was most needed. Athens and London held protests against certain Olympic related projects but citizens of cities such as Beijing and Rio de Janeiro do not have the political or economic means to challenge the many changes the Olympic movement brings to a city. With these large sporting mega events coming to Brazil, Russia, and Qatar, and with the recent successful completions in China and South Africa, it should not come as a surprise if this trend of developing economies winning bids over advanced economic countries continues.

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