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2009/02/04

Why the World Cup Not Coming to China is a Good Thing?

The deadline for bidding on the World Cups in both 2018 and 2022 came and went on Monday and to many people's surprise, China wasn't one of the countries that bid. China was widely expected as one of the bidders this time around and would have been an immediate front runner.

So why didn't they bid? While we here were major backers of the concept of a China bid, we've since reconsidered the idea and decided not bidding was best. Why? Well, let's look at some of the reasons that have been put forth:

1. Chinese Soccer Development
There is a feeling among the "highly intelligent" people at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) that hosting the World Cup when the team is still as bad as it is is not a good thing. It's a matter of face and national pride, which is why this belief is shared by the fans. Much like with the Olympics and China's record 51 gold medal haul, fans want the World Cup at a time when the national team will make the country proud. This is a major reason why on a sina.com poll, 89% support the CFA's decision. The problem is that 1. China can always host the World Cup again, and 2. having the Cup here could be a major boon to soccer's growth and development in China.

2. the Olympics
No, not Beijing 2008, but Harbin 2018 or 2022. If all goes well with this month's Winter Universaide in Harbin, the city has high hopes to seriously bid for the Winter Olympics (unlike their 2010 bid). It seems the national sports authorities are more focused on this (and building China's winter sports power) instead of focusing solely on one sport, soccer. Also, development of a winter sports program will be far easier than making the national soccer team good. What's the problem with this? London in the UK and Sochi in Russia are already hosting the 2012 and 2014 Olympics, but both bidding for 2018/2022, while Tokyo and Chicago are in the running for 2016 and both Japan and the US are bidding as well. Some even think that hosting the Olympics could be an advantage to sealing a World Cup bid.

3. Money
Yes, we're in the midst of a global financial crisis and China has been hit hard. With the Olympics debt yet to be paid, adding a World Cup burden on top of that could be a bit much for the country to handle.

4. Venues
This is the final one and, to me, the most important of the 4. China simply isn't prepared to host. China only has 3 soccer specific stadiums (in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chengdu), but all of them have a capacity of less than 40,000, the minimum to be used in the World Cup. In China, there are beautiful new stadiums in Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang, and Guangzhou and all would likely host games, however all (and an older one in Shanghai) are surrounded by running tracks. In fact, I'd venture to guess that almost every stadium in China over 40,000 is a multi-use stadium with a running track, keeping the fans far away from the field. Therefore, either a lot of new stadiums (which would undoubtedly go unused or make older ones redundant) would need to be built or the fan experience would be severely lacking.

It would be great for China to host the World Cup, especially because it may be the only way China gets into a World Cup in the next 10 years, and while soccer needs to be developed here, the CFA made the right decision in not choosing to bid for the 2018/2022 World Cup.