FIFA has awarded Russia the right to host the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Japan, which wanted to host the event in 2022, was dropped in the second round of voting after Australia was eliminated in the first round. Japan received only two votes while South Korea garnered five. South Korea was eliminated in third round. In the fourth and final round, Qatar won after going head-to-head with the United States.

It was clear that Japan had no chance of winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup because it co-hosted the event with South Korea as recent as eight years ago. Three years after the 2002 World Cup, the Japan Football Association set the goal of hosting the World Cup by 2050. But it changed course two years ago and endeavored to win the right to host the event in 2018 or 2022. The decision not only was sudden but also lacked strong support or enthusiasm among the Japanese public. No doubt the association made a fatal strategic mistake.

FIFA appears to have had strong justification for choosing Russia and Qatar to host the world’s premier soccer championship. Russia will be the first country in Eastern Europe to host the World Cup and Qatar will be the first nation in the Arabic world to host the event. But Russia and Qatar have problems that must be solved before they can be hosts as FIFA’s technical report pointed out.

Russia must improve accommodation facilities and air routes that will connect venues scattered across a vast country. Qatar plans to build nine new stadiums and ten of the 12 venues will be located within a 30-km radius. But Qatar’s biggest problem is the high temperature, which can soar to 50 C. Qatar says it plans to keep the stadiums cool through air conditioning. Its most vital task will be to ensure the safety of soccer players and fans in such a rigorous environment.

Russia and Qatar lobbied hard to win the right to host the World Cup. Japan had only about ¥1 billion to finance its campaign. Rules should be introduced to make lobbying transparent and to place a cap on the cost of the effort.

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