18 May ~ Most of us have enjoyed that moment of excitement when we decide that it would be a great idea to have a party. In the first full flush of eager generosity, we invite everyone we know. It's going to be such fun! That's pretty much the best part over for the host. Then you have to cope with the expense, the preparation and the worries about who's going to turn up. During the party, you fret about whether or not everyone's having a good time. Then when they've all gone home, you have to clear up the depressing mess, wash the stains out of the carpet and pay for all the damage. But if you think that's bad, imagine hosting a World Cup.
Hosting the World Cup is a much worse scenario. FIFA is not only your outside caterer, it also becomes the self-invited control freak that tells you exactly how to run your own party. At huge expense, it bullies you into remodelling and renaming all your rooms ("This bog is now the Coca Cola Personal Hygiene Facility"). It moodily threatens to move the party somewhere else if you don't get your act together and finish the preparations on time. It dictates which beer and food to serve. It makes sure that it will be the guest of honour, quaffing vintage champagne in an exclusive VIP room with its best corporate friends, and you'll only be allowed in wearing a butler's uniform. And then when it's all over, it packs up and leaves you feeling used and empty – like those huge, all-seater stadiums it insisted that you needed so that Chile could play Honduras.
The bidding process for the Olympics and the World Cup has always been an unsightly and undignified process, as committees full of toadying functionaries jostle to court the high-class whores from Switzerland for the right to escort them for one mindblowingly extravagant month. The petty, political machinations of the bidding war have been embarrassingly unzipped by English football's very own Linda Tripp, prompting a lust-smitten pensioner to babble out his barely coherent thoughts on other countries' alleged underhand tactics to be awarded the 2018 tournament. This pathetic, tawdry exposé has been brought to us courtesy of a newspaper that loudly professes its patriotism, but has never quite managed to shift its position of openly supporting fascism in the 1930s. How cheap and dirty the voice of stiff middle England must now feel for its one-issue dalliance with Melissa Jacobs, but perhaps it's done England an unwitting favour. Cancel the party, and let's save ourselves the hassle. Apart from those seeking to bolster their political image, who really wants the World Cup anyway?
Any celebrations at winning the 2012 Olympics bid in 2005 were snuffed out by the London tube bombings the following day. This has been followed by predictably spiralling costs to build facilities and infrastructure (2003's projected budget of £4.5 billion has more than doubled), to be footed by you, the tax-payer, at a time when the levels of the country's national debt are worse than Euro-knackered Greece, the recent beneficiary of EU and IMF economic intervention. It's going to be some party in two years time. With how much conviction will you be able to cheer on the runners and the wrestlers in the knowledge that we're bankrupt, and that a single bomb could ruin everything? Bearing such burdens in mind, England's ongoing desire to host the World Cup makes even less sense, unless it's based on the desperate notion that it's the only way they'll ever come close to winning the thing again. ("There are some people on the pitch! Goodness me, they're debt collectors, digging up the Wembley turf to sell as souvenirs on Ebay! Oh, and congratulations to Italy on becoming World Champion again.")
From the home fans' point of view, going to World Cup games would offer the chance to fork out for excessively priced tickets, all the while listening to the media shriek that the whole country's hyper-thrilled to be welcoming the world to our grey and rainy island. If it wasn't such a bloated, sponsor-soaked event, they might feel differently, but watching from another country in front of the TV with a beer and a Panini album on your lap has become the least bothersome way to experience the World Cup. That way, you can focus on nothing more than the players and what they do on the field. In the end, would you rather blow your budget on an exhausting four-week party where half the guests are sycophantic liggers, or sit back in the pub or the living room with friends and family to enjoy a few dozen games of football for free? Ian Plenderleith