SO you thought the Sydney Olympics was a big deal? By the end of this week, Australia might be preparing for something that blows the 2000 Games out of the water.
In the small hours of Friday morning (AEST) Australians will discover whether a two and a half year campaign, led by the inexhaustible Westfield chairman Frank Lowy, has convinced soccer’s world governing body to let us host the 2022 World Cup.
It was seen as the impossible dream and yet Australia goes into the final days of lobbying and cajoling with quiet confidence. Even Lowy though will be smitten with nerves as the final decision approaches – there really is that much at stake.
Two economic analyses, by independent consultants, drive home the magnitude of the decision.
Economic forecaster IBIS World believes a World Cup here would be worth some $36 billion – in adjusted terms four times what the 2000 Olympics was to the Australian economy.
Clearly it has to be bigger, as a national event, but on every scale the numbers are exponentially higher.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the international consultancy firm, produced a forecast predicting a $5.3bn boost to Australian GDP, and the creation of 74,000 jobs.
What about TV audiences? They reached 4.7 billion for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and 3.6 billion in Sydney 2000.
The past two World Cups, by contrast, were watched by 26.3 billion people (Germany 2006) and 40 billion for South Africa 2010.
But all of that is, of course, irrelevant if the executive committee (ExCo) of soccer’s governing body FIFA doesn’t plump for Australia later this week.
When this all began in 2008 Australia was a relative minnow in terms of soccer’s geopolitics – evidenced by the fact that of the nine bidders for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, we are the only one without a delegate on the 24-man ExCo.
That is why the government committed more than $45m of public funding to the bid, allowing both a massive international lobbying campaign and also the employment of consultants with access to the game’s powerbrokers.