Perhaps it's time for sponsors to rethink whether supporting the mega-sporting events we've come to accept as part of everyday life is really such a great idea. Take the mythical Tour de France bicycle competition, which has dealt with drug use by participants for more than 100 years but in 2012 took the unprecedented step of stripping Lance Armstrong of all seven of his Tour victory titles due to drug use. Then there are the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are always huge undertakings for their host cities and surrounding regions. The cost alone is daunting and there are some massive losers on record, with such overruns coming out of the pockets of taxpayers — Athens, for example, managed to go in the hole on the 2004 games to the tune of $11 billion, which has been linked to its ongoing financial problems. Sydney faced a tab of more than $2 billion for its 2000 shindig. Then there's the 1998 Nagano Olympics, which cost more than $17 billion and may have come in at even more but officials destroyed the financial records to put an end to such pesky questions. And these are just a few examples in a long litany of expensive Games that have often produced a range of other unpleasant effects — in 2008 the Beijing celebration of the human spirit resulted in more than a million residents being evicted from their homes to make way for construction of the facilities.
Which brings us to FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, which is responsible for organizing the World Cup. As you might imagine, this is big business, with FIFA apparently taking in a tidy $5.7 billion in the four years leading to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But what do you know, this week seven officials were arrested thanks to a U.S. corruption investigation, with allegations going back to dubious practices spanning many years. This week the 79 year old head of FIFA, Sepp Blatner, was in Switzerland, blithely making the case for his re-election for a fifth four-year term. Apparently his speech was devoted to trying to convince sponsors not to abandon FIFA because of fears of damaging their brands, using some sort of "too important to fail" logic. But maybe it's time for sponsors to indeed question their participation in FIFA, as well other mega-sports events. Because there increasingly seems to be a toxic cloud gathering around such glorifications of sport.
FIFA is a perfect example of this, in the form of increasing evidence of the terrible working conditions of migrant laborers building the facilities for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. This has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths — 900 so far. The Washington Post, hardly a journal of the radical left, went as far as posting an infographic predicting 4,000 migrant worker deaths during the construction of the 2022 World Cup.
While most are not particularly sophisticated graphically, the logos below of sponsors that have been tweaked to reflect their implication in such deaths is on the mark. So hats off to the group on FaceBook that contributed them. It would be good to see such concerns extend to the mainstream design community but one wonders if designers and agencies would have to the courage to confront potential clients such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's.