Bad sign for the World Cup

Next month, 32 national football sides will compete in the first-ever African hosted World Cup --- but they might be playing in half-empty stadiums. Over half of the 500,000 tickets allotted for South Africans remain unsold, with sales significantly slowing over the last month.

I don't know why this'd be a surprise. Less than four percent of South Africans earn nearly forty percent of total personal income. Another fifth makes up the "emerging middle class," leaving seventy-five percent of the country in the lower income tier. Almost half the country is in poverty, the economy is contracting, and income inequality is in fact getting worse. I'm guessing that most South Africans figured tickets would be a luxury they couldn't afford.

This announcement comes amid a slate of bad news: the World Health Organization warned tourists of an outbreak of Rift Valley fever only yesterday, and a tragic bus accident -- allegedly caused by the bus driver falling asleep at the wheel -- claimed 23 lives today.

Aside from the tickets fiasco, the Organising Committee claims that everything is ready for June 11th. This quote from spokesman Greg Fredericks, however, doesn't alleviate all concerns: "We certainly hope that the strike season will be over." That's not exactly the voice of confidence.

To correct the ticket problem, FIFA should either slash prices even further, or free them up for more foreign fans. They've earned some good press today when they announced that workers on the World Cup stadiums would receive free tickets to two matches. Empty stands at the World Cup would be the height of embarrassment.

To be fair, it would give a break to weary ears blasted by obnoxiously (and dangerously) loud vuvuzelas.



Medvedev asked to investigate governor's alien encounter

I thought this story might be another hoax from those wiseguys at the Moscow Times, but it seems to have been reported elsewhere and is just way too good to check

The aliens came for him on September 18, 1997.  Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was at home in his Moscow apartment when they came in and abducted him, taking him to their space ship where they communicated with him telepathically.

That's the tale Ilyumzhinov told a popular Russian television host in a program that aired last week.  

But Ilyumzhinov isn't simply one of the thousands who claim to have been abducted by aliens, he's also the governor of the Russian republic of Kalmykia and a former president of the World Chess Federation.

Now a Russian parliamentarian wants Ilyumzhinov questioned, fearing he may have given the aliens "secret information," according to the Echo of Moscow radio station.

And not just interrogated by anybody, but by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

State Duma Deputy Andrei Lebedev apparently wants to know what the governor found out from the aliens, what he told them, and whether his close encounter will affect his job performance. 

Ilyumzhinov was already known as a pretty eccentric guy for his ongoing campaign to turn his impoverished republic in into the world capital of chess, including a $30 million "chess palace."