South Korea proposed staging some World Cup soccer matches in North Korea if it wins the right to host sport’s most-watched tournament in 2022.
South Korea is competing against the U.S., Australia, Qatar and Japan, with whom it co-hosted the 2002 edition. Soccer governing body FIFA’s executive committee will announce its decision on the 2018 and 2022 hosts Dec. 2. The matches in the two countries were among disclosures contained in an assessment of bidders for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments written by FIFA’s technical panel and released today.
“The Korea Republic’s bid-hosting concept presents the idea of holding some matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Korea DPR,” the report said.
It also said the U.S. bid lacks the necessary government backing, and Qatar’s effort is hampered by its climate. Temperatures there can reach more than 46 degrees centigrade (115 degrees Fahrenheit).
North and South Korea, which have been divided since civil war ended with a stalemate in 1953, have not discussed the proposal, said Lee Jong Joo, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry in Seoul.
“The ministry may review this idea but we have to wait and see how the relations between North and South Korea and the government’s policy would change,” she said.
Tensions grew this year after a torpedo attack on a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors. While South Korea said an investigation proved North Korea launched the attack, the North Koreans denied responsibility.
South Korea in May cut off most trade with North Korea and banned citizens from traveling across the border. The two countries held reunions between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5 of families separated since the war out of what the South Korean government called “humanitarian” concern.
North Korea qualified for this year’s World Cup in South Africa, the first time in 44 years the communist nation played at the tournament. It failed to win a match. South Korea made it to the round of 16.
“We proposed this idea, hoping that soccer matches would contribute to the peace on the Korean peninsula,” said Park Kang Ho, an adviser to South Korea’s 2022 World Cup bid committee. If selected, organizers will discuss the idea further with FIFA and South Korea’s government, Park added.
The U.S. needs to get government backing for its bid, FIFA said.
“FIFA’s legal risk appears to be medium,” the report said. “The necessary government support has not been documented as neither the government guarantees, the government declaration, nor the government legal statement have been provided in compliance with FIFA’s requirements.”
FIFA’s inspection team said the U.S. government had “considerable experience in supporting the hosting and staging of major sports events and proven its willingness to make material concessions. The U.S. government has “expressed its intention” to enact necessary legislation by June 1, 2013, it added.
U.S. bid committee Executive Director David Downs said all of the government guarantees have been signed, but were modified because of U.S. law.
“We have been in conversations with FIFA about this and they are comfortable with the situation,” Downs said.
The U.S., which has budgeted $661.2 million to stage the 2022 World Cup and a warm-up event a year earlier, isn’t the only candidate to have potential problems marked out.
Qatar’s suitability has been questioned in a number of areas. The Gulf state has proposed spending $3 billion on air-conditioned stadiums. That hasn’t stopped FIFA questioning the wisdom of hosting sport’s most watched event in the desert.
“The fact the competition is planned in June/July, the two hottest months of the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators,” according to the report.
“You can air condition a stadium, but I don’t see how you can air-condition an entire country,” Chuck Blazer, a U.S. official who’ll have a vote on where the competition is staged, said in an article published by the Wall Street Journal.
In a statement in response to FIFA’s evaluation, the Qatar bid said it recognized the concerns over climate.
“The precautions referred to in the report have already been put in place with our proposed air-cooled solutions for stadiums, training sites, fans zones and other outdoor areas,” Hassan Al-Thawadi, chief executive of Qatar 2022, said in the statement. “These are already operational in Qatar, and are being further developed and rolled out in the coming years.”
Australia has secured the required government guarantees, the report said. Still the inspection team noted a risk of “reduction in TV income and, as a result, commercial revenue from Europe and the Americas” if the competition is held there.
The Australia bid responded that “ the massive projected growth in the Asian region would more than offset any reduced revenue from Europe.”
The evaluation also raised concerns about the suitability of two joint bids for the 2018 World Cup proposed by Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said he isn’t in favor of joint offers and the inspection team wrote that they “pose challenges” from an operational perspective.
Those two bids are battling proposals from England and Russia in an all-European competition to stage the World Cup after Brazil in 2014.
Russia is trying to host the event for the first time. Its lack of transport infrastructure was highlighted by the committee.
England will have to suspend a national law that guarantees that some sporting events including the World Cup are shown only on free-to-air television because it “adversely affects the free and unrestricted exploitation of media rights.”
The race to host the World Cup has been overshadowed by the suspension of two of the 24 officials who decide where the competition is staged. They were temporarily banned while FIFA probes allegations that they told undercover reporters their votes could be bought. FIFA’s ethics panel is scheduled to announce its decisions on Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii tomorrow.
The panel is also investigating reports that Qatar’s 2022 bid committee may have colluded with the joint Spain/Portugal offer for 2018.