Major sports events bring joy to the world. Sometimes they are also highly controversial. This can happen for many reasons. Some countries use sports to wash their image. Other events suffer from terrible logistics. But they all leave people shaking their heads.
In this article, we’ll look at 25 such sports events including everything from the Super Bowl to the Olympics. Many of them were outright failures. Check out the list below via Bleacher Report.
25. Super Bowl XXXIX
Jacksonville is a fine city in Florida. However, it’s not the perfect venue for major sports events. It was a surprise selection for the 2005 Super Bowl. They didn’t have the infrastructure for thousands of visitors. In the end, it was a disaster (via Orlando Sentinel).
There weren’t enough hotel rooms for 100,000 people. Jacksonville resorted to cruise ships because they couldn’t accommodate everybody. Meanwhile, New York taxi drivers who drove South made a fortune because the city didn’t have enough cabs.
The European Championships is one of the world’s major sports events. Usually, one country hosts the entire tournament. However, UEFA decided that 2020 would see a pan-continental competition. But the global health crisis made this a terrible call (via N.Y. Times).
They deferred the tournament for one year until 2021. Meanwhile, teams and fans traveled across Europe. Of course, they also spread disease in the process. Some nations pulled out of hosting duties because of their policies. In the end, it was irresponsible.
Fury is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of his generation. He moves like a middleweight despite his staggering size. However, he’s very polarizing. Some people respect him because of his battle against depression. But others resent his affiliation to drug kingpin Daniel Kinahan.
Kinahan is the leader of one of Europe’s most infamous drug cartels. The Irishman fled his home country for the Middle East. He also founded the boxing company, MTK. But they claim he’s no longer in charge. Despite this, many boxers call him an advisor. Fury even thanked him on Twitter (via SBNation).
The Supercoppa Italiana is one of Italian soccer’s major sports events. This competition should take place in Italy. However, their soccer federation sold out in 2018. They agreed on a deal with Saudi Arabia to host multiple installments (via France24). Of course, this didn’t please fans.
In the end, this was all about the bottom line. The Italians accepted the Saudi’s blood money. They didn’t care about their human rights record. Nor did they think about the real fans of Italian soccer clubs. They wouldn’t be able to see their team in action.
Incredibly, Lake Placid has given so much to the world. This small village has a population of under 2,500, But it had a Hollywood movie centered there and also hosted one of the world’s major sports events. Lake Placid held the Winter Olympics in 1932 and most recently in 1980 (via Syracuse.com).
However, organizers made a mistake when they picked it the second time. Upstate New York is not the best destination for thousands of visiting fans. There is nowhere for them to stay. Furthermore, there were also problems with access. Meanwhile, numerous ticket selling errors stained the event.
Sportswashing is a relatively new term. But the practice of using sport to make a brutal regime more attractive has a long history. A clear example is the Rumble in the Jungle. Yes, this was one of the most iconic major sports events ever (via History). Unfortunately, it has a dark side.
Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. Ali was an underdog. But he stunned Foreman in a glorious victory. However, there was a dark side to this event. Dictator Muammar Gadaffi paid millions of dollars to bring the fight to Africa.
Saudi Arabia is prolific in its pursuit of major sports events. Muhammad Bin Salman’s regime has a brutal human rights record. They kill journalists and also treat women appallingly. But sports promoters don’t care because they love money. It’s cynical but it’s the truth.
WWE is a sports entertainment company, not a competitive league. However, their wrestlers train very hard so we’re including them here. They began WWE Crown Jewel in 2018. This was a part of Saudi Arabia’s sports washing initiative. In the end, money talks.
New York is a good place for major sports events. The MetLife Stadium hosted the Super Bowl in 2012. Of course, this is technically in New Jersey. but it’s just across the river from the Big Apple. Meanwhile, there are massive airports and enough hotels.
But the NFL didn’t consider seasonal weather conditions. A snowstorm canceled 1700 flights after the game. Meanwhile, thousands more suffered delays. This created a massive gridlock in the city. Traffic jams and canceled flights made this a nightmare (via The Hill).
Who thought it was a good idea for Greece to host the Olympics? The Mediterranean country held the event in 2004. Yes, Ancient Greece created the original Games. But the modern edition was an economic disaster (via Reuters). They went wild with their spending.
The Greeks went 60% over budget as they threw millions into new buildings. Meanwhile, construction prices inflated. That’s because contractors exploited the government. Greece plunged into recession after the Olympics. Some countries shouldn’t host major sports events because it’s too risky.
Many countries bid to host major sports events to show off their prestige. However, the Olympics was a political disaster for Japan from beginning to end. They had many domestic scandals before the global health crisis. Then, they deferred the event for a year.
However, Japanese people didn’t want this event. Citizens wanted them to cancel completely. But the government had an agreement with the IOC and wanted to recoup their investment. The Games went ahead without fans (via NPR). It was a sham.
Evil dictators hosted two major sports events in the 1930s. Hitler’s Olympics is iconic but many people forget the other one. Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime held the World Cup in Italy. This even inspired Hitler in many ways and changed his perception of himself (via Pundit Arena).
Less than a decade later, Europe was at war. That’s because these two heinous leaders attempted to take over the continent. It also shows how slow we are to change. Governing bodies continue to flirt with brutal dictators. In short, they only care about money.
The global health crisis arrived in 2020. Suddenly major sports events across the planet became untenable. Teams didn’t travel because of border restrictions. Meanwhile, most major venues had no spectators. But one man waged war against the pandemic.
UFC President Dana White refused to accept that he couldn’t hold events. His maniacal pursuit of a venue saw him approach Indian reservations. Finally, he agreed on a deal with Florida to host UFC 249. Many critics called him irresponsible because he endangered people’s health (via L.A. Times).
South Africa became the first African country to host a World Cup in 2010. It’s great that major sports events occur across the planet. But the problem is when they harm the host nation. Many people lost their homes because of new stadiums (via Telegraph).
Meanwhile, the South African organizers only had short-term thinking. Many venues fell into disuse after the tournament. This was an appalling waste of money because South Africa is developing. They could have used the funds to improve people’s lives.
This was one of the most infamous major sports events ever. The Berlin Olympics in 1936 showcased the Nazi regime. Adolf Hitler attempted to display Germany’s rising power. Then two years later, the continent went to war. It’s horrific that Germany had this opportunity.
Jesse Owens provided an iconic moment when he won gold. Hitler infamously refused to present him with his medal because of his racism. It’s a shame that the world hasn’t learned from this event. But they still award major sports events to vile leaders (via AP News).
Russia infamously annexed Crimea in 2014. They invaded Ukraine’s sovereign territory. This killed ordinary people in the process. However, the rest of the world watched and didn’t do anything. An intervention may have prevented more extreme events in 2022 (via Tass).
Meanwhile, Formula 1 had no issue with Russia hosting its first race ever that year. It’s a shame because Russia didn’t suffer any material consequences. This enabled them to become bolder. As a result, they were more aggressive. Formula 1 could have done the right thing but they only cared about money.
The Rio Olympics were an economic disaster for many reasons. Firstly, Brazil failed to rejuvenate properly before the tournament. They also struggled to finish construction. Meanwhile, there were security issues. Many fans suffered muggings (via NYMag).
Corruption was also rife as politicians and investors took advantage. Furthermore, Rio De Janeiro didn’t use many of the facilities after the event. Nobody in poverty gained anything from it either but that’s true of many sports events.
The Commonwealth Games take place every four years. It’s one of the world’s major sports events. Effectively it’s like a smaller Olympics. Nations like Canada and Australia participate. In 2010, India hosted the tournament. In short, it was a disaster.
New Zealand’s team actively considered pulling out because conditions were so bad. The Scottish athletes described them as inhuman. India has terrible problems with poverty. But that’s no excuse for failing with this tournament (PIME Asia).
Ruiz shocked the world when he knocked out Joshua in Madison Square Garden. In doing so, he became the first Mexican-born heavyweight champion in history. However, Joshua’s team was canny. They inserted a mandatory rematch clause in their contract (via AP News).
Most people expected them to fight in Mexico or the UK. But that’s not what happened. In the end, Saudi Arabia outbid everybody to host the fight. Boxing sold its soul many years ago. It’s no surprise they agreed. Joshua won the fight but lost respect.
66 countries refused to participate in this event. In short, it’s one of the most controversial ever. The USSR became the first communist nation to host an Olympics. This was at the height of the Cold War. It’s no surprise that the reaction was also icy.
Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 so it’s not surprising. This was deeply unpopular at the time. Afghanistan was a peaceful country with a rich culture. Since then, they’ve had endless war. Meanwhile, Russia and the U.S. threatened each other with nuclear war (via History).
Argentina suffered a military coup in 1976. This was against the will of the people. Two years later they hosted the World Cup. Needless to say, this was controversial. The military junta still led the country. But FIFA didn’t react (via Esquire). They never do.
They murdered political opponents and clamped down on their people. Regimes like this shouldn’t host major sports events. Then, Argentina won the tournament. This gave the junta the boost they wanted. Democracy returned to Argentina. But this was a dark time in their history.
China and Russia have held many recent major sports events. However, this is shameful because their leaders are vile. In 2008, China held the Summer Games. They demolished many historic buildings. That’s because they wanted to create new sports arenas.
Meanwhile, the implications were shocking. China was ready to take center stage. It was like a coming-out party. Generally, the games were a success. There is no faulting their organization. But the ethics of the event is a different story. This tournament had none.
In 2018, Russia hosted the World Cup. Four years later, they became a global pariah. Putin hoped to use this event to show Russia’s evolution. In sum, this was a dictator’s vanity project. The world has a negative attitude toward Russia now. But there was a lot of goodwill during this event.
However, history isn’t kind to them. FIFA enabled Russia to regain a foothold in the world. It gave Putin a forum that he didn’t deserve. That’s the trouble with these sports-washing events. Sadly, history repeats itself over and over again (via Economic Times).
These were very problematic games. Firstly, it was a chance for Russia to sports-wash its image. They invaded Ukraine that year. Meanwhile, they also introduced an anti-homosexual law. Several sponsors withdrew because of this. Some world leaders refused to attend (via The Guardian).
After the tournament, there was another scandal. Russia’s state-sponsored doping stunned the world. This was on an unprecedented scale. Their cheating was off the charts. In the end, the IOC banned Russia from officially attending future games.
Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022. However, this is extremely controversial. The Gulf nation only has three million people and one major city. Meanwhile, they lack a soccer history. Despite this, FIFA awarded them the tournament. Many critics allege corruption took place (via N.Y. Times).
But the biggest problem was their human rights record. Many migrant workers died because of the intense heat. They slave away in terrible conditions. Furthermore, they confiscate their passports. This makes it impossible for them to return to their home countries.
The Winter Olympics came to Beijing in 2022. However, this was very controversial. Firstly, China has a terrible human rights record. They had an active genocide against the Uighurs. It was shocking that the IOC enabled the event to go ahead (via Fox Sports).
Meanwhile, China also threatened Taiwan. Finally, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai rocked the world. She accused a Communist party member of sexual assault. Then, her government made her disappear. This caused global outrage. There was a lot of baggage.