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OUR CUP RUNNETH UNDER
In Stockholm last week, the 21-member executive committee of the F�d�ration Internationale de Football Association, the self-perpetuating oligarchy that runs soccer, awarded the 1986 World Cup to Mexico, delivering, with the autocratic arrogance that is its hallmark, a casual coup de grace to U.S. aspirations of hosting the biggest and richest sports event in the world.
In the quixotic belief that the U.S. candidacy was still alive, American soccer officials had sent a formidable delegation to Sweden that included Henry Kissinger, who bore a supporting letter from President Reagan. Pel� and Franz Beckenbauer were also there on behalf of the U.S. But all these worthies might just as well have saved their airfares. The same was true of the emissaries on hand to plead Canada's case.
FIFA had already summarily rejected initial applications from the U.S. and Canada, refusing on the thinnest of grounds even to inspect facilities in the two countries as it had those of Mexico. Appealing those rejections in Stockholm, Canada was allowed 30 minutes to make its pitch, the U.S. a few minutes more. Mexico took barely five minutes, a member of its delegation saying, "You know all about us. You know we are ready." Half an hour later, a unanimous decision for Mexico was announced, even though a committee member from Sweden had publicly declared for the U.S. the previous evening. Underscoring that the whole meeting had been a waste of time, Hermann Neuberger, a West German who's a member of FIFA's inner circle, said, "The Canadian and U.S. replies were considered insufficient at the beginning of April. Therefore we didn't have to take into consideration this later material." So much for the "appeal" process.
In the view of some observers, the Cup wound up in Mexico simply because that's the way FIFA President Jo�o Havelange wanted it. A Spanish soccer weekly, Don Balon, in a story headlined HAVELANGE PLAYS DIRTY, reported that he had flown to Mexico last October in a private jet as the guest of Emilio Azcarraga, the president of Televisa, a Mexican TV network that stood to benefit hugely from a World Cup in that country. Other critics suggested Havelange had used clout in his native Brazil, which had earlier dropped out of the running as '86 host, to help destroy that country's candidacy—and so advance Mexico's. Havelange has feuded with Giulite Coutinho, president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, who recently said, bitterly, "It was an actual Brazilian who set about sabotaging our project."
Through it all, anything resembling genuine debate over the location of the 1986 World Cup, including consideration of Mexico's enormous foreign debt, has been muffled. " Mexico's economic conditions are improving," Havelange insisted last month, an assertion that will certainly be news to the International Monetary Fund. Concerning his trip to Mexico, Havelange told SI he traveled there on a commercial flight but at one point did go for a ride in Azcarraga's plane. "Why shouldn't I?" he asked. "He's my friend. As for the charge that he influenced the withdrawal of Brazil's candidacy to host the Cup, Havelange said this was a government decision, adding, "I'm not the government."
The U.S. delegation tried to be upbeat about its setback. "This would have been a great opportunity, but there will be others," said Kissinger. Maybe so, but for now a fine chance for U.S. soccer to take a significant step forward has been lost in the murk of some very curious international wheeling and dealing.
RETURN OF THE NONSWIMMER
Sixty years earlier, he'd been tops in the Class of '23 at Columbia but was denied a bachelor's degree because he didn't attend gym class or take the swimming test required for graduation. That didn't exactly impair his journey through life, though. Even without an undergraduate degree, Mortimer Adler, now 80, was able to get his Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia in 1928, after which he became a college professor, author of more than 30 books, educational reformer, philosopher, co-founder of the Great Books Program and chairman of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's board of editors, a position he still holds. Recently, however, Adler wrote a letter informing Columbia that he wouldn't mind belatedly receiving his bachelor of arts degree, and last week he got his wish, graduating in the company of the 750 members of the Class of 1983.
But what of Adler's aquatic shortcoming? Well, he never did learn to swim, but Columbia, which still considers proficiency in swimming a prerequisite for graduation, waived the requirement in his case. Of his long-ago failure to take the swimming test, Adler recalls, "I went to the pool once. The swimming coach kicked me in. I gagged and clawed my way around for a while, and that was it for swimming." Although he insists that he's not philosophically opposed to phys ed—on the contrary, it's an important part of the idealized elementary and secondary school curriculum he has devised—Adler says, "I think college is not the place to learn to swim." And he resignedly adds, "I wrote How to Read a Book and How to Think About War and Peace, but I'm never going to write a book, How to Swim."