The 2010 World Cup opens in South Africa in a few weeks. As a sports event, it is unrivaled in its popularity. It promises to bring a half-million soccer fans to that country.
But it will also draw out the worst of the worst. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the economic promise of an expected half a million largely male incoming consumers is attracting a massive influx of prostitutes from across the border in Zimbabwe. Hotel managers are guessing that as many as 40,000 ladies of the evening are assembling from as far away as Hong Kong, Pakistan and Venezuela.
This is not the first time this unholy amalgam of sports and the sex trade has materialized. Evidence shows this to be the norm.
The last World Cup competition four years ago in Germany, where prostitution and brothels are legal and tax revenue-generating, attracted thousands of "sex workers" to exploit the crowds. It made a dirty joke out of the tournament motto, "A time to make friends."
The German government prepared for the expected boom in the sex trade during the World Cup (and an expected boost in their tax revenues) by allowing the construction of brothels and temporary "sex huts." Cities hosting World Cup games were allowed to issue special street permits for street prostitution.
What did FIFA, the organizing agency of the World Cup, have to say? The group's president, Joseph Blatter, responded to letters of protest by insisting he objected to any involuntary and illegal human trafficking, but washed his hands of the broader question. "FIFA, as a sporting organization responsible for competitive football, is not in a position to control what happens outside the perimeters of the stadiums; it has neither the power nor jurisdiction to do so."
This was also a problem with the Olympics this past winter, but it's hard to find any statement by International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge addressing the controversy. Earlier this year, Vancouver prepared for an influx of prostitutes at the Winter Olympics in a very Canadian way. While the press fussed at the city pressing the homeless people out of visible spaces, the city police made a verbal promise not to arrest or displace prostitutes "for the sake of public image."
Out-of-town whores, yes; homeless locals, no.
In Vancouver, sexual cynicism was all the rage. An advocacy group called "SafeGames 2010" passed out "SafeKits" including condoms, informational phone numbers, a guide to Vancouver's legal avenues of prostitution and "etiquette tips" for their clients. Be polite while conducting your business transaction.