Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 21, 2014

Fact Check: Taking a closer look at FIFA and the World Cup

After seven years of preparation and billions spent on new stadiums and infrastructure, the wait is over: The 2014 FIFA World Cup is on in Brazil.

The month-long international soccer tournament is a mega event with teams from 32 countries squaring off in matches played in 12 venues around Brazil, which is bigger than the contiguous United States.

The World Cup comes every four years, drawing intense interest and discussion. We’ve found a few claims in recent days that we couldn’t resist fact-checking.

John Oliver on Brazil as host

Comedian John Oliver made some factual claims during an epic rant against soccer’s governing body, known as FIFA, in his June 8 show. The Last Week Tonight host targeted Brazil’s massive spending, the focus of protest for some Brazilians, and cast FIFA as a heavy-handed organization that interferes with host country laws to please sponsors.

One project that epitomizes World Cup waste more than any other, Oliver argued, is a new 42,000-seat stadium in a riverside city within the Amazon rainforest. It cost more than $300 million and sits on the site of an older, smaller stadium.

The host city of Manaus is so far off the beaten path, and so hard to access by road, that stadium materials were shipped by boat from Portugal and up through the Amazon River.

“Okay, that does seem like a waste of money, especially when you consider that that stadium is only going to be used for four World Cup games,” Oliver said. “There’s also no team in Manaus that can fill it afterwards, at which point it becomes the world’s most expensive bird toilet.”

Really? Just four games?

Really. A local team will use the stadium, but there’s no chance of it routinely filling up with the crowds that will come for the four World Cup matches. The U.S. team plays Portugal in the Arena Amazonia on June 22, by the way. PunditFact rated his claim True.

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