The recently-concluded FIFA World Cup in Qatar has served as yet another reminder of the corruption that seems to accompany the awarding of hosting rights for major international sporting events. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), in 2010 representatives of Qatar bribed three South American FIFA officials to win the run-off vote against the United States to host the 2022 World Cup. And this came after two members of the FIFA selection committee had already been barred from voting after they had been caught agreeing to sell their votes. This was not an isolated incident. The DOJ also alleged that Russia bribed FIFA officials to host the 2018 World Cup, and indeed more than half of those FIFA officials involved in the 2018 and 2022 host country votes—including FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter—have been accused of improper behavior. Nor has this sort of behavior been limited to FIFA. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had numerous similar scandals. The IOC has launched an investigation into nine members who were bribed to vote for granting Brazil the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympic Games; Sérgio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, admitted to paying $2 million to the former president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) to buy votes to select Rio as the 2016 Olympic host city, and the head of Brazil’s Olympic committee, Carols Nuzman, was sentenced to over 30 years in prison as a result. And when Russia secured the 2014 Winter Olympics bid, it did so with the assistance of the then-vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia, Gafur Rakhimov, an organized crime leader and heroin kingpin.
Why is the process of selecting host cities and countries for major international sporting events so constantly captured by bribery and corruption? There are several inter-related reasons for this ongoing problem: