2002 World Cup inspired a ‘toilet culture’ | Readings for 20 November 2006

The famed public toilets outside the World Cup stadium in Suwon. Says the Suwon World Cup Guide: “The public toilets of Suwon City turn into the most clean and comfortable places of speculation and rest, display, rendezvous, re-creation of energy in the world.” (Lee Jin-man | AP)

Suwon, South Korea | The city guide bills Suwon, a host city for the 2002 World Cup finals, as a leader in “the toilet culture.” Former mayor Sim Jae-duck helped transform Suwon’s public toilets as part of the Cup bid and developed clean, soccer-ball-shaped loos outside the World Cup stadium. More significant, as head of the World Toilet Association he has backed a worldwide initiative to improve public facilities and to reimagine the restroom, in which a typical adult spends some three years (not continuously), as an expression of a culture’s higher values.

Sim’s work began in 1997 with the campaign to host the World Cup, an honor ultimately shared with Japan. During this time he became known as “Mayor Toilet,” appropriate since he was born in a bathroom—once a sign of auspiciousness in Korean culture. Suwon, 30 miles south of Seoul, now boasts some of the world’s most picturesque public restrooms and offers toilet tours to entice tourists. Says WTA publicist Kim Woo-tae, “We want to hear Vivaldi, we want to see Picasso when we’re in the restroom.” (AP, 17 Nov 06)

The text, akin to a devotional reader, comes covered in silk and packaged with white archivist’s gloves. There are 1,700 images (including art by Andy Warhol) and 300,000 words. (Gloria Books)

Books | Hefty tribute fit for a sport’s king

Pelé: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a 720-page, 35lb limited-edition “megabook,” is best carried with luggage cart. In the tradition of GOAT: Greatest of All Time, a 75-pounder in homage to Muhammad Ali (Taschen, 2004), Pelé targets a moneyed audience of collectors with pockets deep enough to shell out $3,000 for the base edition. The cost escalates to $11,000 for the last 150 in the set, autographed by surviving members of the Brazil side that won the 1970 World cup.

These numbers surprise soccer writer Paul Gardner, who says that such outrageous prices run counter to Pelé‘s native appeal: “Pelé’s popularity is still with the basic soccer fan, at the lower end of the income scale.”

Contributors to the book include Scottish journalist Hugh McIlvanney, Brian Glanville, Brazilian journalist Mario Filho and Alex Bellos. (New York Times, 18 Nov 06)

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