City Hall

Did Seattle Jump the Gun on a World Cup Bid?

The city got on board with a North American bid months ago.

By Hayat Norimine January 16, 2018

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Hosting the World Cup has always come with a mixed bag. Alongside economic boons, cities and countries also then expose a large price tag, growing pains for cities, and questionable business and labor practices.

FIFA's had its fair share of recent controversies over the 2022 World Cup, from bribery, to exploitation of migrant workers, to skyrocketing costs for the host country. (Nice going, Qatar.) City council members say it would be different if games were hosted in Seattle, a place with a far more progressive record on labor and human rights.

The council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution supporting Seattle's pursuit to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup. Proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and sponsored by Rob Johnson, the resolution solidifies city officials' support for the process, though the Sounders announced the city's bid back in October. 

"FIFA oversees the biggest sporting event in the world, and the tournament should be hosted by a world-class city like Seattle," Durkan said in a released statement Tuesday. "We’re ready to welcome teams and visitors from across the globe to the Emerald City.

The resolution passed on Tuesday said the city would use requirements for major events outlined from when Seattle wanted to host the World Trade Organization conference in 1999.

One of those requirements is that council members approve the solicitation before it begins.

The process for approval is pretty extensive with layers of bureaucracy; it includes gathering information on the city's potential financial exposure, the need for security, and risk analysis.

The 2001 resolution acknowledges that attracting an event is usually time-sensitive but still calls for a police department evaluation on what that kind of resources would be necessary. And it says a separate resolution—the kind that had been pushed through on Tuesday—must be required for major events, which is defined as one that would go beyond 3 percent of SPD's budgeted overtime. 

Regardless, the resolution passed unanimously. Council members committed to getting those answers later, if Seattle's bid makes it through the next step. But for now, there's little known about what hosting World Cup games would mean for the city.

The U.S., Canada, and Mexico together placed a joint North America bid months ago to host the World Cup. The proposal lists 32 cities—four in Canada, three in Mexico, and 25 from the U.S. including Seattle.

FIFA's expected to make its decision picking a bid in June. From there, a committee will pick 12 out of the 32 cities to host World Cup games. Johnson told PubliCola that if the proposal moves forward, the city would make those reviews. (Lisa Herbold said she wants council members to get answers before March 5.)

"The World Cup seems like a great economic opportunity for us," Johnson said. "We'd be really fortunate to be selected." 

Updated 10:03pm on January 16, 2018, to correct the year of the resolution to 2001. Updated 9:07am on January 18 to include Herbold's comment.

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