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Will the 2018 World Cup Start the Next Football War?

Russia hosting the 2018 soccer World Cup. Soccer player Andrey Arshavin (center) is holding up Russia’s placard. Image: Александр Вильф/Wikimedia

Over the last year, a number of top government officials in the United States and Europe have called upon FIFA to punish Russia by moving the 2018 World Cup to another country. FIFA has refused to do so, claiming that the tournament can be “a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.” This idea is based on the theory that international sports encourage peace and cooperation between countries. FIFA frequently champions this theory as if it is a proven fact, but without providing much evidence to support it.

The World Cup may influence society in many positive ways, such as by encouraging exercise, entertaining the masses, and giving fellow citizens something to bond over. If it also promoted international peace, we would have yet another reason to feel good about investing so much of our time and energy in it. However, there is more evidence that the opposite is true – that international sporting events like the World Cup actually increase the likelihood of conflict. » More

The Adventures of Switzerland’s Most Famous Stone

Never mind it’s a duplicate. Photo: Patrick Frauchiger/flickr

Fans of yodeling, dancing and schwingen got their money’s worth last Sunday at Switzerland’s biggest celebration of traditional culture, the Unspunnen festival. If the sight of men wrestling in lederhosen isn’t exciting enough for you, the festival showcases another pearl of entertainment: stone throwing. No less than 83kg of massive granite has to be shifted by each competitor, the further the better.

The first Unspunnen festival was held in 1805. Napoleon had just invaded Switzerland, and the event – and the ‘Unspunnen Stone’ with it – became a symbol of Swiss unity. But it was not until 1984 that the stone rose to international fame, when it was abducted by a group of Bélier activists – part of quiet Switzerland’s very own separatist movement. » More

Cricket Diplomacy in the 21st Century

International cricket in Barbados

International cricket in Barbados. Photo: flickr/phik

Cricket, as they say, is a funny old game.    Few sports can claim to inspire, in equal measure, its extensive and fanatical support — as the second-most popular sport in the world– and the blank incomprehension and derision of the uninitiated.  In India and Pakistan, the emotional lives of a billion people seem implicated in every flash of the willow on leather.  In the US, the game is often confused with (or willfully misunderstood as) croquet. » More

Great Projects or Great Illusions?

How will Sochi fare? photo: jan zeschky/flickr

Much has been made of Russian great power politics. Western media has been swamped with reports of Russia’s assertive energy politics, its Cold War-style military parades and photographs of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in shirtless macho poses.

More discreetly however, Russia has been striving to display the country’s greatness through the realization of various projects that commemorate Russia’s glorious history and show off the country’s modernization and economic growth. By holding prominent international events, Moscow hopes to restore the country’s national pride and revive some of its regional centers through the development of infrastructure projects that typically accompany such events.

But will Russia’s investments into these events improve its image abroad and bring much-needed progress for its lesser-developed regions? » More

The World Cup: Hoping for the Best

World cup of hope? Courtesy of mikkelz/flickr

If you think that HIV/AIDS is Africa’s most serious problem, think again.

Malaria is the biggest known killer on the continent. Malaria is an infectious disease produced by a nucleus holding cell called Plasmodium. There are many variations of the disease but only one is fatal to humans, the Plasmodium Falciparum. In Africa the disease causes $12 billion worth of economic losses every year and worldwide it kills more than any other communicable disease except tuberculosis.

The ongoing FIFA World Cup in South Africa will help stimulate the strained economies on the continent and will allow states to sustain the costs of the infectious disease, thus helping people get access to the aid and treatments they need. The event has opened up 650,000 jobs to South Africans and the expected income for the whole event is around $7 billion (approximately R55 billion.)

After the World Cup is finished some 144,000 jobs will remain, allowing people that may have been out of work to continue to profit. Hopefully the income generated over this month, as well as months and years to come will make for better treatments for malaria and other infectious diseases ravaging the continent. An unfortunate factor is that malaria usually hits the poor population particularly hard and often prevents them from even accessing aid. There is hope that this event will help reverse this trend.

With the permanent jobs created by the event and with more money flowing to development and health projects, the strains on the poorest may be alleviated and access to treatment may be boosted.

For the sake of the African people, I hope it works.

Make sure to check out our recent Special Report on the World Cup and its impact beyond the football pitch.

Sam is our youngest ISN intern yet and attends the George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. His interest include world history, sports and biology.

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