World Cup: The Negative Impact Of The World’s Most Popular Sporting Event

Travis Walter Donovan :: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 7:00 pm

worldcupForget coffee — nothing gets me going at 10am these days like the angry hornets’ nest buzz from a stadium full of vuvuzelas. I LOVE the World Cup. It’s my one opportunity every four years to actually have an interest in sports.

I wish it were as easy as just hitting the beer bong and trying to stumble along shouting to Argentina’s national anthem. But even with the World Cup, my concerned conscience has to kick in and ask what the negative consequences of the world’s largest sporting event might be. Considering one-tenth of the entire world watched the final match of the last World Cup, and American ratings alone are up 60% from that 2006 tournament, I know I can’t be the only one with this curiosity.

A report from the Norwegian Embassy declares that the environmental impact from this World Cup will be six times worse than the last one in Germany four years ago. Overall, the games will release an amount of CO2 into the atmosphere equivalent to the yearly emissions of one million cars. A lot of factors contribute to this startling figure, including things like the construction of the new stadiums in South Africa and travel not just from around the world to the event, but locally to get to and from the games. Perhaps the future will find us striving toward a more sustainable solution for the grandiose sporting event, like Qatar’s World Cup bid for 2022 (yes, they actually plan these things 12 years in advance), which looks like something out of a sci-fi flick, proposing a slew of solar-powered stadiums.

The environment isn’t the only victim of the global soccer showdown. As we witnessed when countless people were displaced for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, plenty of South African’s poorest residents found themselves forcibly moved to shantytowns in preparation of the 2010 World Cup, while their government dropped billions of dollars into an event that they won’t personally see any positive results from.

Additionally, local street vendors are forced outside of the immediate vicinity of the games to make room for licensed merchandise peddlers. While some African charities are getting more attention from the games, the contributions seem pale compared to the total negative impact on the residents. The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign has organized a “Poor People’s World Cup” to highlight these injustices and allow an event that the impoverished people of the area can actually be a part of.

Trust me — I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade and point a disparaging finger! Despite the negative ramifications of the World Cup, I’ll still be watching every game. But it’s important to talk about these issues so that people are more aware of them. After all, this is the world’s most witnessed sporting event. Imagine the kind of positive changes that could be influenced through such a massive audience, and the kind of incredible benefit an event of this magnitude could have on the community around it — if the global voice demanded such accountability and contribution. Maybe in another four years…