Why the 2014 World Cup Will Be the Biggest Sporting Event Ever

Vince Siu@vincetalksfootyFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08:  A Brazilian flag waves on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Set aside all the controversies and negative news that plagued Brazil in the buildup—on the eve of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, we are about to witness a grand spectacle for the next month.

As the participating countries step up their training and acclimatization to the Brazilian climate and landscape, the host nation is busy putting the finishing touches to their stadiums in time for the grand opening.

We've covered plenty of the controversies surrounding this summer's World Cup in recent weeks; now let's dive into why the World Cup will be the biggest sporting event ever.

It might finally justify the money that's been poured into all the preparation work.


Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

The TV Numbers

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A World Cup is only ever as big as the viewers it gets, and Brazil 2014 will likely be the most-watched sporting event ever.

According to CNN Money, the 2010 South Africa World Cup attracted 3.2 billion viewers, 10 per cent more than the 2006 tournament in Germany. Four years on, it could even eclipse the 3.6 billion-strong audience of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The reason? Brazil's "large domestic audience, the timing of matches, [football]'s growing fan base in countries where other sports have dominated, and new technology."

That Brazil is a football-mad nation is well-known, while its Europe-, U.S.- and Africa-friendly timezone will attract the viewers that the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan had lost because of geographical reasons.

The growth of the beautiful game in the U.S., the biggest sports market in the world, will also contribute to the increased interest in this summer's tournament, while the Americans will be bringing to the table their expertise in marketing, branding and broadcasting high-profile tournaments.

American sports television giant ESPN is certainly counting on the World Cup: Bimal Kapadia, the senior director of its online football arm, ESPNFC, claimed bullishly that "ESPN is expecting this to be the biggest event in the history of the world," according to CNET.com.

Cue the large-scale overhaul of its digital offerings, as well as its in-depth coverage and content strategy to take advantage of the booming interest in the World Cup.


Eraldo Peres/Associated Press

The Economic Numbers

Away from the TV sets and closer to the action on the ground, the World Cup may well have a lasting economic impact on Brazil.

According to a report by Ernst & Young Terco, the event "may result in an increase of up to 79% in the international tourist inflow to Brazil in 2014, with even possibly higher impacts in subsequent years. In the period 2010-2014, that figure should be as high as 2.98 million additional visitors."

An estimated total of 3.7 million tourists are expected to visit World Cup sites, according to WalletHub.com, some 3.1 million of which will be from within Brazil, showing the massive spending power that the locals have and will contribute to their economy.

All told, the World Cup would add about $13.6 billion to the Brazilian economy in 2014 alone, Brazilian tourism minister Vinicius Lages told AFP (via Yahoo). He also cites the event as the catalyst behind the country's long-awaited overhaul of its infrastructure.

The EY report also predicts that the tournament would generate 3.63 million jobs a year and have an impact of R$112.79 billion on the national production of goods and services across most industry sectors.

While white-elephant stadiums, especially in far-flung, exotic locations like Manaus and Cuiaba, may yet be a very real prospect in the aftermath of the tournament, which will again generate debate about the true legacy of staging a World Cup, significant gains may be realized at least in the short term.


Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

The Sheer Spectacle

Finally, there is just the prospect of the latest World Cup in a more globalized, digitized world on the horizon, with more people than ever interested and able to watch matches live. And there's the more glamorous sheen of it all.

There's the carnival-like opening of the tournament in a redressed Maracana Stadium that will wow all onlookers; there's the faraway but exciting location of Manaus, just outside the Amazon; and there's the most high-profile football games played up and down Brazil.

Not to mention the plethora of world stars and the fanatical fandom they inspire, the sheer number of advertising/branding campaigns put on by associated brands and sponsors to drum up interest and stir passions and the tabloid-like following that will no doubt dog the footballers and their entourages.

And what about the prospect of Brazil winning a record sixth World Cup on home soil, to complete a romanticist's victory? Or a new, unheard-of young star lighting the tournament on fire? Or a new footballing superpower making a statement on the grandest stage of them all?

Pit the biggest stars on the planet against each other, and what you get isn't just a buzz-generating new Nike ad campaign but a drama where the storyline has yet to be defined and the conclusion may yet be the climax of it all.

That there are more eyeballs to witness it and more money put in to make it happen are just sideshows to the real star of the show: the football.


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