The World Cup Points the Way
All the yellow cards, red cards, fake injuries and head butts aside, the recently completed World Cup was a magnificent global phenomenon. The world came together around the single biggest sporting event on earth. It has always been the quadrennial big event, but this time there was a certain amplification that was different.
The first thing to point out is that, in the four years since the World Cup of 2002, there has been a growing recognition that we are all part of a global economy. Friedmanâ€™s â€œThe World is Flatâ€ came out in 2005. Every day there seems to be a story about either India or China and their exploding economies and how these economies are linking up with the United States and other countries. Also how these, and other economies, with their growth have put upward pressure on the price of energy and most commodities. Certainly in the United States, and I would venture to say in most countries, there is more of a sense of being a global citizen than in 2002. Since then, there have been tens, if not hundreds of millions of new high speed Internet connections to homes and businesses, and the number of people using wireless devices with net connectivity and video around the world has soared. All this made the World Cup 2006 more of an inclusive and readily available event than ever before.
The second thing to point out is that in the United States, the ratings soared over those in 2002. Most of this increase was due to the fact that the Cup was in Germany and not Korea and Japan and therefore the game times were better for US viewing. Nevertheless Americans watched in record numbers, despite the less than stellar performance by the American team. I was in an airport a couple of times when games were on in airport bars and restaurants and there were crowds of people crowding in front of the TVs, watching matches; a scene I have only seen for NFL play-offs or the World Series. This time, the World Cup has a resonance with Americans that seemed to be more than curiosity about this sport of soccer that everyone else calls football.What really hit home for me is that more than 300 million people watched the World Cup final between France and Italy live. Think about that, there were that many people doing the exact same thing, watching the same game, all at the same time. That is more people than the population of the United States right now. That audience is more than three times the worldwide audience of the Super Bowl. It was also estimated that the live audience, plus all the people that didnâ€™t watch the game but saw highlights in the 24 hours after the game added up to almost 1 billion viewers. Even assuming duplication that is a staggering number.
We are moving toward a much more global society than exists today. We are all starting to think of ourselves as global citizens. We have all understood that we now live in a global economy, where something that happens in one part of the world affects the economies of countries all over the world. The Internet, communications satellites, live TV and billions of cell phones around the world have created a world where, in terms of communication, there is no longer any time and distance. When everything travels at the speed of light, and everything is always available, there is no sense of distance or time. Communicating via the Internet or via a wireless device with someone 10,000 miles away takes the same time as communicating with someone 10,000 feet or 10,000 inches away. So technology and communications is the first step. This first step has enabled us to gather around, log on or push a button so we can all watch a game in Berlin live.
Communications are global, the economy is becoming global and history teaches us that culture and politics follows economics. So we are, to a significant degree, moving toward a global culture. The World Cup points the way.A note to readers: Appropriately, this post was made from Berlin, at the beginning of a two week trip to Germany.