Monday, 29 November 2010

Korean 2022 World Cup bid pros and cons

Having been a football fan for over twenty five years I have been following the World Cup bidding process carefully. Being from England, naturally I hope we get win the right to hold the 2018 cup. Recent events mean though that the chances of winning are not high with Spain/Portugal and Russia seen as more likely to be successful. As long as the vote is a fair one I think people can cope with not winning especially when the attention of the Government should be on more pressing matters.

South Korea, as well as Australia, Qatar, Japan and the United States are all bidding to be hosts, but for the 2022 World Cup. Bearing in mind last weeks events on Yeonpyeong island and the ongoing uncertainty on the peninsula I find these quotes interesting from bid team member Hyo Jin Ahn, "I don't think this incident will make a negative impact on our bid,". For what it is worth I have always thought Korea had no chance of hosting the tournament but hope to be proved wrong, having lived here a fair while and being married to a Korean, etc, etc.

Some things in South Korea's favour - The stadiums are already here. They are of a very high quality and the bid would only need to build one more, in Incheon which is already in construction whilst increasing capacity in six more. The transport infrastructure as proved in 2002 should be able to handle things. In particular, Incheon airport is fantastic and a gateway to Asia and Europe. 2002 is still fresh in many peoples memory and although the tournament was low on quality (not the fault of neither Korea or Japan), overall it was a success. South Korea is Asia's best team and now enjoys a higher world wide profile with the likes of Park Ji Sung and Lee Chong Young and others playing successfully overseas - this is not an 'unknown' football nation. Clutching at straws here but the 'bid for peninsula peace' may entice some to go vote for it - but that hasn't helped Korea's bids for the Winter Olympics so far.

Some things not in South Korea's favour - They only recently co-hosted a tournament (2002) so perhaps it is not Asia's turn. The recent Korean F1 Grand Prix was not a total success. This may have little bearing on the bid but press coverage was critical in some nations. If the 2018 bid goes to an 'established' nation such as Spain/Portugal or England then Fifa will possibly be more inclined to hand 2022 to a 'new' nation such as Australia or Qatar in a bid to create a legacy somewhere. On the legacy theme, what has been the legacy for 2002? Many World Cup stadiums are white elephants i.e. Daegu where I live. The K-league may be improving but attendances overall aren't so great and this will always be a baseball nation. If there aren't enough hotels in England, something their bid was criticised for then are there enough quality hotels here? Remember Korea only co-hosted 2002 so dealing with so many travellers represents a problem for all host nations. Kick off times here are not agreeable with Europe (too early and not at 'prime time') which would possibly reduce television income. And of course what happened on Yeonpyeong island is impossible to be out of peoples minds - what incredibly bad timing for South Korea. Unsubstantiated rumours persist that China is going to bid for 2026 which would only happen if 2022 does not go to Asia.

Bearing all these in mind I expect Korea to be eliminated in either the first or second round of voting. The vote for the 2018 and 2020 bids is held on Tuesday, December 2nd. Good luck to South Korea and England this week because we both need it.

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