The World Cup tournament — which takes place in Russia next summer — has shaped soccer history more than any other soccer competition. The first official World Cup was hosted by Uruguay in 1930. Afterwards, more official tournaments started, but there was one that later began to have a bigger influence on the governing body of soccer: the Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee was looking for a reason to compete with the powerful International Football Association Board, which controlled soccer: Let’s get you over there!
In 1932, amid economic turmoil, the Olympic Games took place at Los Angeles. While those games helped to find a place for soccer among the world’s major sports, the World Cup has become its global Olympic counterpart. Of course, there is still a certain competitive envy. At the 2015 World Cup in Brazil, a seemingly uninspired group of television broadcasters who collectively had paid more than a billion dollars for the exclusive broadcast rights broke into laughter. “Half the advertising slots at the World Cup are sold before Brazil even qualify,” one remarked.
Matches at the Rio Olympics include a Greek long-jumper who had a horrific knee injury, the gold medal around his neck still wrapped, and Argentinian poet Senor Mito who died in the race. In a humorous counterpoint to this, a Brazilian championship final reached its peak with La Ghianda, an ancient national tradition that left players exhausted, covered in blood and seemingly incapable of going on.
But in this aspect of its operation, the Olympics face more obstacles. The World Cup, for example, does not have a free kick. The Olympic Games do have a free kick, and it can involve a very physical training ground technique: an exhibition “sledge-hammer-and-saucer kick,” where players hit each other with a sledge-hammer, which changes speed, and then with the “saucer” they use to start.