Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympics to Follow World Cup to Brazil

Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games today in a vote by the International Olympic Committee. Which was a bit of a surprise for one reason:

The Olympics are going to Brazil only 24 months after the World Cup plays South America's superpower.

This could be a risky proposition for the Olympics because it sets up an almost head-to-head competition with the World Cup.

A competition that may well leave the Olympics in second place.

Commentators in the city of Chicago, one of three competitors with Rio, seemed convinced the potential confluence of events, in Brazil, would wreck the Rio bid for the Olympics.

In today's Chicago Tribune, commentator David Greising wrote, "Rio's bid-killer, though, is the fact that Brazil will host the World Cup in 2014. That's two short years before the 2016 Olympics, a mere eye blink for an IOC that measures time in quadrennials.

"Set aside legitimate concerns about Brazil's capacity to host the world's two biggest sports events within 24 months of each other. Instead, consider the issue that will rule out Rio for many IOC voters: The world's oldest sports movement does not like to share the spotlight with anyone; World Cup soccer least of all.

"In the Alice in Wonderland world of the Olympics, the IOC is the Queen of Hearts: vain and mercurial to the point of narcissism. Off with the heads of anyone who suggests the IOC must compete for sponsorship money, organizational efforts and the public's attention. As big as the Olympics are, the World Cup is at least as big everywhere outside the U.S, and futbol-mad Brazil is the last place in the world where the IOC would want to show up two years after the Cup."

Or not.

This could be very interesting.

Our sense for quite some time has been that the World Cup is a bigger event, in terms of global interest, than is the Summer Olympics. Aside from the United States and Canada, and maybe Australia and New Zealand (and the vanished Soviet-era bloc, which looked at the Olympics as a way to make political statements). And perhaps (perhaps) China because, like the U.S., China is far more successful in Olympics competition than it is in soccer competition.

But, as was noted in a previous blog post on this site, soccer appears to be the No. 1 game among the Chinese populace. Even if the Chinese can't actually play the game.

Something fun to keep tabs of will be the size of the TV audiences for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The number of tourists for the former, and the latter.

We predict a World Cup victory. Followed by IOC self-reflection on why it allowed itself to be drawn into the sort of direct competition it wouldn't win.

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