Soccer / World Cup

Technology fuels Japan's 2022 bid

by Andrew McKirdy

Japan is banking on its reputation for technological innovation to win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

Japan’s bidding committee on Monday outlined its ambitious plan to once again stage the tournament it jointly organized with South Korea in 2002, touting as-yet undeveloped technology as a means to offer supporters visiting the country — or staying at home — a “revolutionary” viewing experience.

The high-tech projects include images being beamed onto giant 3-D hologram-style flatbed screens, translation earpieces for fans of different nations to converse with each other, and devices to instantly capture information by pointing at players on the pitch.

The committee also plans to stage “fan fests” in 208 countries worldwide at an estimated cost of ¥550 billion, while around 6,000 children would be invited to the tournament to “act as a powerful force in raising global consciousness.”

Japan faces stiff competition from eight other bidders ahead of the Dec. 2 decision, but committee chairman Motoaki Inukai believes his team’s bid book, which includes pop-up pictures and a Sony PlayStation Portable, made a strong first impression with world soccer governing body FIFA.

“Regardless of how much confidence we have, we have presented this bid book to FIFA,” he said at JFA House. “They said that Japan’s bid was the most unique proposal, but we still don’t know what kind of view the voting members will have.”

The bidding team has enlisted the help of Keio University professor and Internet pioneer Jun Murai to help with the technology that forms the backbone of the proposal. Murai acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead, but insists the communication devices and “Full Court 3-D Vision” are more than just fantasy.

“You may think that the technologies you see are like something from a science fiction film, but we have several phases and we have 12 years to realize these technologies,” he said.

“We have to develop the technology alongside human beings so of course we face a big challenge, but we have already finished the research phase and by 2016 we will be able to realize these technologies for use. We are very confident that we will be ready by 2022.”

The bidding team plans to use this technology to transmit games to roughly 400 “fan fests” around the world, providing a communal space for supporters who do not have tickets to watch live matches. Despite the huge scale of the plan, bid committee managing director Takato Maruyama is confident the financial and logistical considerations can be met.

“The operational costs will depend on where the fan fests will be situated,” he said. “In some countries it will be free of charge, and in some richer countries people will have to pay to participate. That is how we intend to cover the costs.

“In 2022, we don’t know how many countries we will not have an open relationship with, but we wish to share the World Cup with as many people as possible around the world. I think football can make that possible.”

The legacy of the 2002 World Cup means only one new stadium would have to be built for the 2022 tournament, with the proposed 83,300-capacity Osaka Ecology Stadium slated for both the opening game and the final.