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When the Women's World Cup Swapped Host Countries Because of SARS

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Until 1991, women’s soccer didn’t have a prestigious worldwide tournament to call its own. Even though FIFA helped organize a World Cup-style event in China that year, they refused to officially brand it as a “World Cup” and instead allowed corporate sponsor Mars to assume naming rights. Thus, the “1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup” was born, and it was held in Guangdong, China over two weeks in November.

While FIFA may have half-assed their efforts in connection with the tournament, host nation China did not. Teams played in front of packed stadiums, and a capacity crowd of 65,000 watched the United States defeat Norway 2-1 in the final. The event was such a success, FIFA went back and retroactively attached its “World Cup” brand to the tournament.

When FIFA awarded China the rights to host the 2003 Women’s World Cup, the sport was on an all-time high following the wildly popular 1999 tournament held in the United States. FIFA’s decision represented a homecoming to the country that had helped raise the global profile of women’s soccer in the first place. It was all very exciting…until it wasn’t.

After years of planning, FIFA abruptly announced that it had decided to move the tournament to a new country because of the SARS outbreak in southern China. By May 3, 2003, the date when FIFA made their decision, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had killed over 400 people and infected 6,000 more, mostly in China and Hong Kong. 

"It will be transferred to another country in view of the current health threat in China," FIFA said in a statement after consulting with the World Health Organization. This began the hurried process of moving a countrywide event in a matter of months. Brazil, Australia, and Sweden had expressed interest in hosting, but the United States got the nod, largely because they had so successfully held the previous event and proved they had the required infrastructure. The tournament was originally scheduled for September 20, and FIFA intended on keeping that start date.

The U.S. Soccer Federation saw an opportunity as well. The Women's United Soccer Association, a professional league established after the 1999 World Cup, was hemorrhaging cash and proving to be a massive flop. While a hastily organized World Cup wouldn’t have made any immediate financial return—it was a “very close to a break-even situation” according to a U.S. Soccer official at the time—there was hope that the tournament would inject new interest into the game and help save the WUSA from imminent demise.

Six stadiums were secured and the U.S. managed to host the event on schedule, but it was too late for the WUSA. On the Monday before the World Cup kicked off, the league announced it had to suspend operations due to mounting financial losses. It would never return.

The tournament itself was a relative success considering there were only 128 days to prepare. It wasn’t able to recapture anything close to the magic of 1999’s World Cup, however—there was only one sold-out match: the U.S.’s bout against a North Korea team that had scrambled to get visas in time.

China, for their part, were awarded the rights to host the Women’s World Cup in 2007. FIFA also paid them $1 million for their troubles. As FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi said at the time, "China had hired staff and had expenses so we paid them."

With FIFA currently embroiled in a devastating corruption scandal, fans are wondering whether or not the 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cups will still be held in Russia and Qatar, respectively. While assigning these huge tournaments to replacement countries could mean a massive logistical headache, the move would hardly be unprecedented.

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Is There a Limit to How Many Balls You Can Juggle?
Carl Court, Getty Images
Carl Court, Getty Images

In 2017, a juggler named Alex Barron broke a record when he tossed 14 balls into the air and caught them each once. The feat is fascinating to watch, and it becomes even more impressive once you understand the physics behind it.

As WIRED explains in a new video, juggling any more than 14 balls at once may be physically impossible. Researchers who study the limits of juggling have found that the success of a performance relies on a number of different components. Speed, a.k.a. the juggler's capacity to move their hands in time to catch each ball as it lands, is a big one, but it's not the most important factor.

What really determines how many balls one person can juggle is their accuracy. An accurate juggler knows how to keep their balls from colliding in midair and make them land within arm's reach. If they can't pull that off, their act falls apart in seconds.

Breaking a juggling world record isn't the same as breaking a record for sprinting or shot put. With each new ball that's added to the routine, jugglers need to toss higher and move their hands faster, which means their throws need to be significantly more accurate than what's needed with just one ball fewer. And skill and hours of practice aren't always enough; according to expert jugglers, the current world records were likely made possible by a decent amount of luck.

For a closer look at the physics of juggling, check out the video below.

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Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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11 Timeless Yogi Berra Quotes
Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The great Yogi Berra—a 10-time World Series champion and three-time MVP—was one of baseball's best catchers, but he's remembered just as much for his wit and wisdom as his Hall of Fame career. Here are some of the quotes attributed to Yogi (who was born on May 12, 1925), even if he didn't always say them first.

1. "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."

2. "The future ain't what it used to be." (Yogi later clarified, saying, "I just meant that times are different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.")

3. "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

4. "It ain't over 'til it's over."

5. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." (See Quote Investigator)

6. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." (See Quote Investigator)

7. "We have a good time together, even when we're not together."

8. "It's déjà vu all over again." (See Quote Investigator)

9. "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."

10. "I really didn't say everything I said."

11. "Then again, I might have said 'em, but you never know."

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