Three years and counting. Okay, it's more like 40 months and counting. Whatever countdown you have - years, months, weeks, days, whatever - South Africa 2010 is just __ ____ away. While everyone from FIFA president Sepp Blatter to South African politicians say the World Cup will go off without a hitch, I myself am worried.
This guy, however, is not. Andre Pruis, the deputy national commissioner of the South African Police Service, seems to think that there will be low crime levels around the games. That might be good but nobody is going to sleep at the stadiums. What I want to see is for police to tell us that there will be lower crime levels everywhere during the World Cup.
What's scary is this part from the story:
"In a 12-month period between 2005-2006 there were 18,528 murders, 54,926 rapes, and 226,942 assaults with grievous bodily harm intended, according to the Department of Safety and Security"
Holy crap. And they're going to take the World Cup here? 18,528 murders?!? In one year?!?
As much as I'd hate to see South Africans soccer fans lose out on the World Cup, for the sake of the rest of the world this event needs to happen elsewhere. I can think of 18,528 reasons for it.
Now, should the World Cup be moved, it is logical for the U.S. to host the event. Before the Denmark-US game Sunil Gulati sat with a group of reporters and talked about the United States and of its great stadiums. He brought up some interesting points. First, he said that the US still holds the attendance record for a World Cup. Since then, there have been more games added (24 teams in 94, 32 afterward) but more fans have passed through the turnstiles in USA 94 than in France 98, Japan/Korea 2002 and Germany 2006. Gulati also said that the number of stadiums has increased dramatically since 94.
He said something like - and I'm paraphrasing - there were stadiums in 98 that didn't exist in 94 that could have hosted the World Cup. There were enough stadiums to host the World Cup in, in 02 that weren't around in 98. There were enough stadiums to host the World Cup in, in 2006 that weren't around in 2002 and there will probably be enough stadiums in 2010 to host the World Cup in that weren't around in 2006.
Now, before I go on, Gulati made it clear that nobody in FIFA had contacted him about the possibility about hosting the World Cup, and in fact wouldn't even go so far as to say the U.S. would be the best option to host the World Cup should something happen in South Africa.
Anyway, let's take a moment to daydream, shall we? World Cup 2002 had 16 host cities I believe but that's because it was in two different countries. I know Japan had Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Osaka, Kobe and Oita (all of which I saw games at) as well as Sapporo and Yokohama (didn't make it out to those ones). Germany had 12 host cities.
The U.S. should have 12 as well. It could have 16 or 20 but do you really want to make fans and media travel that much?
Let's stick to 12 and break it down by region.
West: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. (would need some major renovations but is best option in the LA area); U of Phx Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; Qwest Field, Seattle; Invesco Field, Denver.
Midwest: Soldier Field, Chicago (a no-brainer); Reliant Stadium, Houston; Browns Stadium, Cleveland; Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.
East: Lincoln Field, Philly; Gillette Stadium, Foxboro; FedEx Field, D.C.; Dolphin Stadium, Miami.
Yes, I left New York off. If the World Cup can do without Tokyo, it can do without New York. All these cities and venues have proven they can play host to large-scale events, with Glendale pulling off the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS title game in a span of a week without major headaches, and I'll give a first-hand account of that stadium in a few weeks' time.
It would be nice to keep groups to one part of the country, like have Group A play in the West cities, Group B in the East cities, and so on and so forth. That would cut down on travel time for teams and fans and the media.
Gulati can deny it all he wants; deep down, he knows what the rest of us know. The U.S. is the only country who would be able to host the World Cup with as little as a month of prep time. Blatter can call Gulati in May 1, 2010 and give him 18,528 reasons that he decided to move the World Cup and if the U.S. could host it. Gulati would make a few phone calls and then that would spur a few more phone calls and before you knew it the U.S. would be playing Poland in the opener at Qwest Field on June 12, 2010.
Like I said, daydreaming.