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FIFA Scandal Could Impact Stadium Construction

Swiss authorities reportedly want to launch a separate inquiry about the Qatar selection as work continues to build state of the art facilities.

Thu June 04, 2015 - National Edition
Giles Lambertson

If corruption at the top of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, has any impact on the ongoing construction of soccer venues around the world, it will be negligible. Money-laundering, racketeering, and bribery may be wrong, but they probably are no match for the international love of the game.

FIFA is famously, if heretofore unofficially, corrupt and has no shortage of worker issues. May’s indictments of top officials only put a coda on years of suspicion about FIFA’s governing board. Presiding over a sport whose teams are cheered as an expression of national identity, FIFA answers to no one. It is, in a word, a fiefdom and orders up stadiums accordingly.

Each world soccer cup requires about a dozen stadia scattered around a host country. The Cup challenge is held every four years and the host country is identified far in advance, yet completing the stadiums often is a last-minute thing, as in Brazil in 2014. Russia—the first eastern European venue for the Cup—is working on its 2018 stadia now and promises to be ready.

But 2022 stadium construction in Qatar probably is the most notorious. The $3 billion facilities are of varied designs, each one slightly more exotic than the last and boasting zero carbon emissions. They will be climate-controlled (in one of the hottest parts of the world) through stringent reduction of solar radiation backed by massive air conditioning. FIFA presumably foresaw such extreme conditions, yet awarded Qatar the hosting privilege anyway. Some have wondered, why?

The country’s human rights record also might have precluded a successful bid for the Cup matches, but—for some reason—it didn’t, with deadly consequences. Ten construction workers died during the building of Brazil’s soccer stadiums. An international trade union organization predicts that 4,000 workers will die by the time Qatar’s stadiums open in 2022.

Swiss authorities reportedly want to launch a separate inquiry about the Qatar selection and there is lots of grumbling in high places. Yet chances are very good that stadiums now being built will be completed and the games go on. Now-resigned FIFA president Joseph Blatter once observed in a report on stadium-building that the builders “are making sure that the beautiful game is played in beautiful, comfortable, and safe stadiums.” For true soccer fans, that’s all that matters.

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