Protests won't stop Brazil from hosting World Cup

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Amid the panic and uncertainty of the street riots that engulfed Brazil last week, there was one associated development that was entirely predictable.

With the clean-up and fall-out barely getting started and an uneasy peace lingering over the nation that loves soccer like no other, the United States became part of this sad tale that sees sports and social unrest painfully intertwined.

According to reports in O Globo – Brazil's leading daily newspaper – a contingency plan has been considered that would see next summer's World Cup moved to the U.S. if the situation in Brazil worsens to an extent that the safety of international visitors cannot be guaranteed.

Cue some excitement from American fans who would love to see the game's greatest showpiece on these shores for the first time since 1994.

Cue much discussion on how the unique infrastructural set-up in the U.S., with its glut of massive stadiums and cities with enough hotel beds to seamlessly house a sudden influx of fans, would be perfect.

And cue scrutiny upon soccer's world governing body FIFA, to see how it may react to the scenes that have marred the ongoing Confederations Cup, effectively the warm-up tournament for next summer.

But before American supporters start getting ready to gear up for some World Cup tailgating next summer and to welcome the finest players on the planet, it is time for a little perspective.

Because there won't be a World Cup over here any time soon.

Ready as the U.S. might be, as exciting as it would be, speculation of a relocation is, more than likely, just that – speculation.

FIFA has invested too much energy, Brazil has invested too much money and time is simply too short to even think about a change of venue unless it becomes absolutely necessary.

"There is no plan B and I haven't had any offers from other countries to host the World Cup next year," FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke asserted in a press conference Monday amidst chatter that the protests could force a change in venue. "We are just a small part of what is happening in Brazil. We are the best, No. 1 sport in the world. It's a major sporting event, but it's still just a sporting event."

Though the volume and intensity of the uprising in Brazil was remarkable and the tragedy of the associated deaths and damage is brutally real, it would take a lot more to force FIFA's hand.

FIFA has only once moved a World Cup from its originally-slated venue, granting hosting rights for the 1986 tournament to Mexico when Colombia experienced severe economic hardship and withdrew.

Yet that change was implemented three years prior to the start date, allowing plenty of time to prepare. Furthermore, the World Cup was not the extravaganza it is today, with fewer teams, fewer traveling fans and less strict stadium requirements.

While the U.S. would love to host a World Cup and could certainly do a fine job given the resources at its disposal, such a scenario is no more realistic now than it was four years ago when concerns over the readiness of South Africa's stadiums led to talk of a change.

Rioting on such a mass scale generates international attention, but history shows that it rarely causes the scrapping or shifting of global events. Remember that London and other British cities were rocked by violence, looting and protest a year out from the 2012 Olympic Games, but by the time the flame was lit last August, those events were little more than distant memories.

"This is all theoretical because I think whatever is happening now in Brazil you are going to see the country come together and show a lot of national pride after seeing the World Cup in a wonderful country for soccer," Alan Rothenberg, CEO of the1994 World Cup organizing committee, told Yahoo! Sports. "But yes, there are a handful of countries that could handle a World Cup at a moment's notice and [the United States] is one of them."

How quickly could the United State mobilize?

"I think probably within six months," Rothenberg said. "Given the timescale, there are parts of it that would be an amazing chore, but it is still doable."

Brazil's issues are real, but unless the rioting resurfaces on an even greater scale and evolves into a South American version of the Arab Spring, FIFA is not going to rush into any snap decisions.

"There's no major issue we have faced during the Confederations Cup," Valcke said. "There are a few minor problems but it’s more internal work, to make sure the operation works at the best level. … We must be ready by December 2013 to prepare everything in the 12 host cities."

In a column for the U.K.'s Guardian, former Brazilian World Cup star Romario, who is now a senior political figure in the country, wrote that he "never thought the World Cup would solve all of our problems, but now my fear is that this mega event will only deepen the problems we already have."

That concern is one surely shared by many Brazilians, but the reality is that the World Cup is going to stay right where it is, and won't be turning up on our doorstep any time soon.

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