The 2002 World Cup ends Sunday in Japan, leaving its host countries with empty hotel rooms, a trail of bills to pay, stadiums to maintain and promises of an economic boom unfulfilled.
However, many in Japan and South Korea say the boost in morale and image brought by the soccer tournament was worth the price they will pay.
The 64-game tournament has helped fill the coffers of the FIFA world soccer governing body through sale of television broadcast rights, and of the Japanese and South Korean organizing committees through ticket sales. Some players have achieved a measure of fame and reaped fat financial rewards.
But the taxpayers who financed the bulk of a $7 billion building binge for the World Cup and still-uncounted costs of security and preparations have not seen the economic return they were promised, according to available information.
The number of fans who traveled here for the games fell far short of predictions. Business at hotels and airlines was actually weaker than normal because travelers who might have come for other reasons stayed away. On top of that, the soccer tourists spent little and left quickly, leaving only a small economic wake.
What is left are 20 grand soccer stadiums, 16 of which were constructed at extravagant cost. Used for only three or four games each, many will rarely, if ever, be filled again, and will be used only sporadically for smaller events. Local governments in remote areas, lulled by boomtown dreams, will be paying far more to maintain the stadiums than they can expect to earn from their use.
"We didn't build this based on the principle of making big money," said Machiko Minegishi who manages the newly built, 63,700-seat stadium in Saitama prefecture. The stadium will now be used by the local professional soccer team, which draws an average crowd one-third the size of the stadium's capacity.
"The stadium was built on a concept that we would like people to learn the joys of soccer, to give dreams and hope, to make Saitama a Mecca for soccer," she said.
The prefecture, which spent $667 million on the stadium, now will spend $6 million a year to maintain it, and expects to recoup only about 40 percent of that annually from local games.
Most other venues cannot even count on making that much. Only three of the 10 Japanese cities with new stadiums have professional soccer teams in the top league. One didn't even get a World Cup game. Local officials in Toyota, in Aichi prefecture, 150 miles west of Tokyo, built a $375 million stadium last year in hopes of attracting a Cup game. They failed to do so.
"A lot of these stadiums were built for the benefit of construction companies," said Simon Jackson, chairman of the Hokkaido International Business Association in Sapporo, where a stadium was built with a movable field that can be lifted so the grass can be aerated in nice weather.
"Does our stadium make economic sense? Probably not. But is it good for the city? Probably yes. Like the Sydney Opera House, it's a civic asset."
In fact, as the costs have become clearer, supporters are talking more and more about the indirect benefits of hosting the World Cup. Economic research organizations in both countries argue that increased name recognition will boost market share for Japanese and South Korean multinational companies. Korean commentators wonder if the results-oriented management of team coach Guus Hiddink will revolutionize the country's calcified business style. Political commentators say relations between South Korea and Japan have warmed, and sports officials say soccer in their countries will get a big boost.
"This is a total makeover of Korea's image to the world," said Kim Joo Hyun, vice president of the Hyundai Research Institute in Seoul.
But these arguments were secondary in the original sales pitch delivered to taxpayers by World Cup promoters, who said the games would be a good deal financially for the host countries.
"The World Cup is a golden opportunity to bolster our country's prosperity," South Korean President Kim Dae Jung had predicted.
That sentiment, and others like it, proved to be wildly optimistic. A Japanese research group predicted the games would bring $26 billion to $30 billion in benefits to the country. The Korean organizing committee promoted the event as an "economic World Cup," and estimates from Seoul put the benefits at anywhere from $5 billion to $15 billion, and said the event would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
By contrast, Germany, which will host the next World Cup, in 2006, is taking a far more sober approach, predicting a windfall ranging from almost nothing to just $2 billion.
Economists who study the benefits generated by sporting events said most World Cups have not been financial winners. Simon Bowmaker, who lectures on sports economics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said most World Cup host countries have in fact lost money and most areas that host a major sporting event grow at a slower pace than normal after the event is over. The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, for example, were followed by a sharp economic slump the following year, which was aggravated by huge spending on infrastructure for the Games.
"The economic impact will be marginal at best," Bowmaker said recently of this year's World Cup. "The organizers should shoulder some responsibility for raising Japanese and South Korean hopes."
Chang Se-Moon, a professor at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, concluded that since 1954, eight World Cup hosts have experienced higher growth rates after the games and four have had lower growth rates.
The premise behind the 2002 World Cup seemed overly optimistic from the start. The decision to hold the games in two countries -- and 20 cities -- was an attempt to spread the glamour and the financial return generated by the event. But as a result, the spoils, including the ticket revenues, were halved for each country, while costs were inflated because facilities had to be duplicated.
Even ticket revenues didn't flow in smoothly. Byrom Inc., a small British company run by two Mexican brothers with limited ticketing experience but good connections with FIFA, was given the sole contract for handling 1.5 million tickets. It claimed most of the games were sellouts. But at game after game, thousands of seats were empty, even as fans outside clamored for tickets.
The organizing committees blamed Byrom. Byrom and FIFA blamed the organizing committees.
Everything Has a Price
It was much the same story with Byrom's handling of hotel accommodations. Byrom was awarded sole control of 70 percent of the rooms at major hotels in South Korea and promised to fill them. The hotels, in turn, rejected other reservations. But the company astounded hoteliers by returning unsold more than half a million rooms, about 71 percent of those it was holding.
"The most upsetting part is they canceled a bulk of that in March and April, just weeks before the World Cup opening," said Kang Sung Il, accommodations director at the Korea World Cup Organizing Committee in Seoul.
The visiting soccer teams, too, looked hungrily at taxpayer purses. In Japan, towns without stadiums wanted to share in the excitement by hosting foreign teams for training. Some of the teams demanded money before agreeing.
"We were asked to pay 400 million yen" -- about $3.3 million -- to guarantee that the top-ranked Brazilian team used Hiroshima City as a training camp, said Hideki Masutani, head of Hiroshima's sports program. "We said of course we will pay whatever expenses are necessary. But we don't have money to give away." Brazil dismissed the offer.
Other towns, however, met the asking price.
Tiny Nakatsue, a village of only 1,400 on the southern island of Kyushu, spent nearly $700,000 to get the Cameroon team to practice there, a price tag that would have worked out to about $12,000 per hour if the Cameroon team had not agreed to stay an extra three days.
"There is an image [abroad] that Japan is a rich country," said Satoru Kida, a community development analyst for a publicly supported research group in Tokyo. World Cup promoters "hyped things and said there will be an economic effect, and people were forced to dance along."
The cost of building stadiums, roads and related infrastructure -- $4.5 billion in Japan and $2 billion in South Korea -- is cumulatively five times that spent by France, which hosted the previous World Cup, in 1998, using mostly renovated stadiums.
"Twenty stadiums was too much. We tried to convince [Japan and South Korea] that it was too much," Michel Zen-Ruffinen, the outgoing FIFA general secretary, said today in Tokyo.
"This World Cup was by far the most expensive World Cup ever. I don't think we will ever face a World Cup costing so much money."
Tokyo and Seoul predicted they would each reap the financial benefits generated by 400,000 to 500,000 foreign visitors. Initial reports suggest the number of visitors was far fewer. The South Korean media estimated that the number of foreign tourists during the World Cup was two-thirds the number predicted; major hotels had occupancy rates 10 percent to 20 percent lower than the previous year.
Japanese officials insist they don't have the numbers yet. But tourism industry officials are not cheerful.
"Overall, in terms of people flying, it wasn't what we expected," said Fred Tanaka, a spokesman for All Nippon Airways. "It's been suggested people just stayed home to watch the games on TV."
The high price of travel to and within the host countries -- Tokyo is the world's most expensive city -- discouraged fans. Travel jitters after Sept. 11 hurt. Japanese tourists, who usually flock to South Korea to shop in the summer, stayed home. Travel restrictions and an early exit of their team from the tournament cut into the large numbers of Chinese who were expected.
So the business boom from the games was uneven. Television sales soared by 38 percent in Japan. Sales of imported beer tripled. In South Korea, cigarette consumption spiked by 15 percent. The subscriber rate for the SkyPerfecTV cable company in Japan increased by 2 1/2 times.
But as some fans stayed at home watching television, many bars and restaurants were left empty and some proprietors were left grumbling. Other businesses closed voluntarily.
"It was a missed opportunity. Here in Hokkaido, people were very, very worried about hooligans. A lot of businesses closed on their own," said Jackson, of the business association there. "In the end, I think [the police] arrested two English guys in a bar for stealing a T-shirt."
Special correspondents Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo and Joohee Cho in Seoul contributed to this report.