13.7.14

PUBLIC CHOICE, BIG-TIME SPORTS, AND FISCAL FOLLIES.

I understand there's some kind of important soccer game going on today.  Radio is tuned to Brewers - Cardinals; lots of St. Louis fans in Milwaukee despite the difficulties getting there by train.

But developing countries, Danny Schechter notes, are pursuing elusive gains either in national prestige or in economic growth, from vying to host the World Cup.
With the  FIFA spectacle about to pack up its goodies—most of their lucre has already been wired out of Brazil—it’s time for hype for the next global spectacle, as the “host” country now tries to cope with its financial losses, intensified social conflicts and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans after earlier losing their star player to a nasty collision on the field, and their valiant Captain to a penalty.
Why should the positional arms race to host the World Cup be any different from the positional arms race to host the Olympics, or the dissipation of resources as university after university chases (U.S.) football glory?

Brewer update: Bob Costas calling "Get up, get up, get outta here, gone!"  And apologizing for the wrong inflection.  There's lots of time in a baseball game for the broadcasters to swap yarns between pitches.  I wonder if that goes on in footie, or if the announcers have to act agitated all the time.

Back to the political economy.  Brazil is simply the most recent industrializing country to have engaged in corporate welfare for sports promoters with little return.
We saw this movie before, just 4 years ago, in South Africa where warnings of corrupt practices and unreasonable demands by FIFA---to have companies they pick build unwanted and unneeded stadiums, and control all TV rights, among other “requirements”” insuring they controlled the events and made the most money—were lost in well orchestrated patriotic fervor to bring the games to Africa for the first time.

South Africans were persuaded after years of struggling for freedom that they had finally arrived in the big time.

In the end,  FIFA made more money off the games in South Africa than in any earlier World Cup. There were plenty of photo ops and mutual congratulations, but, afterwards, the county was left with a large debt and white elephant stadiums,  like the one in Cape Town which some critics want to turn into a low income housing project in a “Mother City” known for its shacks and packed slum-like townships.

At the time, South African media turned down a powerful documentary forecasting these problems. To the ANC, the ruling party, the FIFA party was the one to embrace even as fans brought their own invention, to the games---wailing horns that expressed both joy and disquiet.
That's the vuvuzela, now a staple of gatherings of the Perpetually Aggrieved in the States.

Mr Schechter correctly diagnoses what has happened, with one actor missing.
Ratings and revenues are the driver with minimum attention paid to celebrating diverse cultures or teaching the world about the world. No wonder there is so much unreported corruption on all sides. The World Cup does not belong to the world.
Perhaps not. But as long as bond-traders are willing to underwrite the government subsidies, and as long as politicians look for ground-breaking, ribbon-cutting, and event-opening photo opportunities that accompany the sporting events rather than saying, "I cannot find the line in my republic's Constitution that authorizes these expenditures," the rent-seekers will continue to seek rents, and the less-than-honest politicians will sell favors.

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