Back in January, Denver was holding out hope for a shot at hosting an upcoming World Cup or Winter Olympic Games. Both now seem unlikely, and we know for sure Denver will not host the most-watched sporting event in the world in 2018 or 2022. Yesterday, FIFA awarded the World Cup hosting duties to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich, Middle Eastern country, in 2022. Among those watching the host choice announcement was President Barack Obama, who called it “the wrong decision” (via Agence France Presse). Losing the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games was a blow to Obama’s hometown of Chicago. And losing the World Cup bid is a significant defeat for Denver, too. Cup events can draw an audience of about 2.6 billion people worldwide, and the hosting economy can see the addition of nearly $800 million from about 3.5 million visiting fans, as Germany did in 2006, according to the Denver Business Journal.
“We have to take the opportunity to put Denver forth on a global stage,” KieAnn Brownell, president of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, tells The Denver Post. “I think the most important thing on these bids is that we’re winning from the process, not just from hosting.” Still, Bob Contiguglia, the former president of the United States Soccer Federation, who lives in Denver, calls the decision “a huge disappointment,” adding, “We put a lot of work into it. The Federation put in $10 million. We have people exhausted from traveling all over the world.” But both Brownell and Contiguglia insist Denver will keep trying to win a hosting role for a World Cup. “We’d certainly like to compete and be a part of that if [the United States wants] to bid again,” Brownell says.