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Keeping Score: Expect Trouble At Brazil's World Cup

Georgia Soares |
February 15, 2014 | 6:45 p.m. PST

Columnist

Some Brazilians want to sabotage the World Cup as a means of protesting government corruption. (Marcello Casal Jr/ABr Agência Brasil)
Some Brazilians want to sabotage the World Cup as a means of protesting government corruption. (Marcello Casal Jr/ABr Agência Brasil)
The country of soccer will be hosting the World Cup for the second time this summer. In 1950, the final match was in Maracanã stadium, where Brazil played against Uruguay and lost the championship on their own turf. This summer, Maracanã will again hold the final match, where Brazilians hope to watch Brazil play—and win—its sixth championship.

The World Cup will run from June 12 through July 13 in 12 different cities in all regions of Brazil. A total of 32 countries will participate, Brazil being the team with the most titles (five), followed by Italy (four) and Germany (three). Brazil remains a top competitive team for this year’s title; it has won the past three Confederations Cups, beating Spain 3-0 last year. However, Brazil hasn’t won a World Cup since 2006. 

FIFA rotates among continents every World Cup year to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance. 2014 is Latin America’s year, and Brazil was identified as the ideal host for its continuous contributions to soccer and the worldwide popularity of its players and team. From a standpoint of based on passion and emotion, Brazil seems to be the perfect match for a World Cup event: soccer enthusiasts, popular team, beautiful country, relaxed atmosphere. But just like closely looking at a photo and suddenly seeing its flaws, the more one learns about Brazil, the more cons one finds to compromise the pros.

There are, indeed, great possible outcomes of the World Cup in Brazil. Most benefits are economic in nature. The country must invest in certain industries, such as hotels, transportation and restaurants, generating more jobs and giving unemployed people the opportunity to earn income. While the World Cup is a temporary event, the changes are not, and citizens will be able to take advantage of the better economy. There will also be large profits from the high numbers of tourists within Brazil, which will benefit airlines, local businesses, hotels and many other sectors. 

On top of the economic advantages, hosting the World Cup also places Brazil under the spotlight and, for better or for worse, it’ll receive more international media attention than usual. This advantage works both for those who support and who oppose the World Cup. Even if one does not support the event for socioeconomic reasons, at least the media will be more attentive and likely to engage in a discussion about the social issues present in Brazil. This has already started; you can find more articles than usual on Brazilian affairs, especially about construction tardiness, favela invasions and exceptional high expenditure on stadiums and other sports-related infrastructure.  

However, Brazilian authorities seem determined to destroy the few pros of hosting the event, thus expanding the list of cons. Brazil would benefit from an economic boost after a wave of government investment in infrastructure and successful tourism, but officials have so far focused only on stadium construction and canceled several airport, train and bus improvements, which are far more useful and beneficial to Brazilians than high-tech stadiums.

In addition, the government is estimated to spend $13.3 billion in total for World Cup preparations, far more than Germany and South Africa have spent in the previous years. This, among other reasons, has sparked protests in many Brazilian cities, because the population feels betrayed by the government, who commonly claims not to have sufficient money to properly invest in education, healthcare, safety or transportation.

Another major con is, although the government is trying its best, Brazil simply does not have the necessary infrastructure to welcome thousands of foreigners, offer proper accommodations and means of transportation, and guarantee their safety. Rio de Janeiro, for instance, expects around 300,000 visitors, but it only has 55,400 hotel beds. One can imagine the situation in the other, less metropolitan and less popular cities. 

Brazil bets that tourism will produce large profits that will ignite the economy. However, it is challenging to assert an estimated amount of tourists for this World Cup for several reasons. For starters, prices in Brazil have been skyrocketing and, although anyone spending dollars is at an advantage (one dollar is equivalent to 2.3 reais), the inflation of hotel and airfare prices will certainly prevent many tourists from attending the World Cup. 

Also, tourists are faced with a serious concern for safety: one need only read Brazilian news to realize the lack of control the police and authorities have over dangerous favelas, robbers, kidnapper and so on. Finally, there is the population’s resistance against hosting tourists in Brazil, as a way to protest against governmental corruption. Many Brazilians want to sabotage the World Cup and are disseminating videos and articles online about why no one should attend the event. 

Brazil has in its hands two grand opportunities—the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016—to make a lasting positive impression on the world, improve its infrastructure, boost tourism and create thousands of jobs for its people. But so far, the government and World Cup event planners have only disappointed Brazilians and will most likely soon disappoint the rest of the world as well.

 

You've heard a lot of speculation about how this summer's World Cup will go for the world's soccer teams, but what about the people hosting the world-famous event? What's in store for the people and government of Brazil? Read Neon Tommy's new series "Keeping Score" to find out.
Reach Columnist Georgia Soares here; follow her on Twitter here.


 

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