Brazilian Government Handed Red Card by its Population Ahead of Soccer World Cup, Olympics
by GLapierre on October 17, 2013 - 7:06pm
Ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, controversy currently emerges in Brazil. Somewhat in the same vein as the first one I summarized, the CBC article Brazil protests show cost of hosting major sports events, posted on June 29th, 2013, explores and presents the downside of hosting such worldwide, mega-happenings.
Since last June, the amount of protests – now called “soccer riots” in the media – has significantly increased, in Brazil. Indeed, on June 20th, a million people – from about 80 Brazilian cities – took down the streets to protest against the massive spending of the state in the perspective of hosting the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, in 2014 and 2016. In consideration of the issues and deficiencies encountered by the country’s education and healthcare systems – which translate into major social disparities –, the protesters decry the government’s investments – totalizing to this day 28 billion reals ($12.7 billion) only for the World Cup (that is, this amount will grow with the forthcoming expenses of the 2016 Olympics).
Moreover, doubts are raised regarding the viability of organizing such events; for instance, Stefan Szymanski, sports economist and co-author of the book Soccernomics, claims that there are "only very limited economic benefits" to it. He goes on by saying that “for example, the construction of the required infrastructures really just displaces other construction activity” – instead of creating new activity and boosting the economy, as governments tend to claim. Nothing to ease and/or diminish the ongoing tensions…
Since the spark was lit by a rise in the bus fares, Dilma Rousseff’s government announced by the end of June that it would invest $23 billion more in public transportation. However, to this day, it didn’t have the expected effect on the contestation wave; the fire seems there to stay…
As far as I am concerned, more than one group holds a part of responsibility in this fiasco. Such spending is a complete non-sense, given, for example, the poverty that reigns in the favelas of Rio (some neighborhoods infamously known for their extremely low standards of living and high crime rates). However, the Brazilian government can barely do something about it. Indeed, look at how London, Beijing, and other previous venues spectacularly and grandiosely hosted the Olympics, and you will agree that Rio effectively has tremendous efforts to deploy in order to match the standards they established.
In my opinion, the real convicts are the FIFA and the IOC. After all, as Norman O’Reilly, professor of sports management at the University of Ottawa sums it up in the article, they have deliberately chosen to “stage mega-events in developing countries in order to extend their reach”, despite that it may potentially “highlight the income disparities between the moneyed elite and the rest of the nation”. In the future, they ought to consider such factors in order to prevent and avoid massively controversial situations like the one we are witnessing in Brazil. Isn’t it sadly ironical that Brazil, arguably the Mecca of soccer, hands a red card to its government ahead of the World Cup – which should be a giant fiesta?
Furthermore, in the interest of equality and affordability, I would invite the FIFA and the IOC to consider the idea of enforcing a budget limit before awarding their events to cities and countries all over the world…
Until then, they might see, just as in Brazil, lots of “Go Home” signs in their less wealthy venues.
FIFA: Fédération Internationale de Football Association – Worldwide soccer governing body.
IOC: International Olympic Committee.