Who's going to get the 2022 World Cup?

While everyone in Washington and probably most global capitals is obsessing over WikiLeaks, the sports world is eagerly awaiting this week's big event: FIFA's decision on who gets to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. (To give you some perspective: World Cup was Yahoo's second-most popular search target this year, after the gulf oil spill.)

Today, the 2022 bidders -- Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, and the United States -- are giving their final presentations in a last-ditch attempt to persuade any remaining fence-sitters that their country deserves the nod, and tomorrow FIFA will announce the winners. 

The 2018 Cup is destined to go to a European country; the most interesting contest is for 2022. Soccer blogs, which have been buzzing with gossip and speculation for the last year or so, seem to think it's going to come down to a choice between the United States and -- believe it or not -- Qatar, the tiny Persian Gulf emirate whose seemingly quixotic bid to be the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament has captured the imagination of millions of Arabs all over the world. (Disclosure: My wife's company does some small-scale work for the Qatari government in this area.)

Unfortunately for Qatar, FIFA's bid evaluation report rated the country's facilities as "high risk" due to the fact that few of them are built. The extremely hot weather in June and July, when the Cup would be held is another major concern. In response, Qatar is sinking billions into its bid and has promised to build stadiums deploying innovative outdoor cooling technology and then donate them to developing countries. Doha, the capital, is festooned with banners (reading "22" and "Expect Amazing") promoting the bid, and seemingly every shopping mall in town has a booth handing out free bumper stickers and other paraphernalia. Expectations are high.

And that's what worries me. Qatar has made an amazing go of it, and it would be an inspiring win for a region that has too few of them, but I'd be extremely surprised if the United States loses. Ultimately, FIFA's goal is to make as much money as possible, and Qatar can't hope to match the size of the U.S. market. But you never know. Politicians, not technocrats, are the ultimate deciders here.

One final note: It would be a great irony if Arab leaders' sniping about Qatar's alleged support for terrorism and general troublemaking in the region, as revealed in the WikiLeaks cables, tipped the scales against the Middle East's first real shot at hosting the Cup. I think the decision has probably already been made, but you never know...

Clive Rose/Getty Images for Qatar 2022


British police seek Assange over Swedish rape charges

Interpol announced this morning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been placed on international "Red Notice" status over rape and sexual molestation charges in Sweden. A red notice is not an arrest warrant, but is usually interpreted as a request for provisional arrest and deportation. Police in Britain, where Assange is known to have spent time recently, say they will implement the request: 

The Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is handling the case, confirmed yesterday it had flagged up an Interpol "red notice" to all UK police forces that the whereabouts of Assange were being sought.

Police sources said Assange would be arrested if they discovered his precise location. The 39-year-old is believed to be in the UK.

A Soca source said: "If there is intelligence or information to say he is in a said location, then that will be acted upon. With a red notice issue it means he's on the radar, on police force systems. Law enforcement Plc is looking for him."

Assange's lawyer issued a statement calling the charges "persecution" and said that the nomadic hacker had cooperated with Swedish prosecutors. 

On a somewhat unrelated note, those seeking clues into Assange's political motivations would be well-advised to check out this essay from 2006, around the time of WikiLeaks' founding, posted by the website Cryptome. Under the title, "State and Terrorist Conspiracies," Assange lays out his vision of information warfare: 

To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we
have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must
think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes
that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not.

This passage seems particularly applicable to the latest leak:

Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate (the conspiratorial
environment), pass it around the conspirators and then act on the
result. We can see conspiracies as a type of device that has inputs (information
about the environment) and outputs (actions intending to change or maintain
the environment).

He continues: 

Traditional attacks on conspiratorial power groupings, such as assassination,
cut many high weight links. The act of assassination -- the targeting of visible
individuals, is the result of mental inclinations honed for the pre-literate societies
in which our species evolved.

Literacy and the communications revolution have empowered conspirators
with new means to conspire, increasing the speed of accuracy of the their interactions
and thereby the maximum size a conspiracy may achieve before it
breaks down.

Conspirators who have this technology are able to out conspire conspirators
without it. For the same costs they are able to achieve a higher total conspiratorial
power. That is why they adopt it.