With only 2 weeks to go before the start of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil is struggling to be ready for football’s showpiece event. With 2 of the 12 stadiums still unfinished-including the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, which is due to host the opening match on the 12th of June, it really is squeaky bum time for FIFA and the Local Organizing committee.
Strikes, delays in finishing stadia, unfinished infrastructure projects such as-airport extensions and transport links to stadiums, public protests over rising stadium costs and the overcall cost of hosting the tournament, and corruption allegations linked to the tournament, have left many Brazilians feeling negative about the footballing jamboree.
And then finding out that they would be funding most of the costs of the most expensive World Cup in history- contrary to what was promised pre-tournament, hasn’t gone down too well either.
But as well as leaving many of the Brazilian public furious, the problems have left FIFA’s top brass with a sour taste in their mouths and angry towards the Brazilian government and LOC (Local Oragnizing Committee).
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has been vocal in his criticism of Brazil’s preparations for the tournament, including his ill-fated comment a couple of years ago that Brazil needed a ‘kick up the backside’ while Sepp Blatter has criticised the nation for spurning the 7 years of preparation time-the most ever given to a host nation, they were given to host the event.
But the 78 year-old, who is due to stand for re-election as FIFA Chief once again, later backtracked by tweeting that the tournament would be a ‘success’ after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had launched a firm defence of her nation’s preparations.
But in my book Blatter and co only have themselves to blame: they should never have even given the World Cup to Brazil. If they had done their homework, they would have seen that Brazil-fantastic country that it is, was not ready to host a World Cup. And to boot, didn’t need a World Cup.
Despite having come a long way in the last 30 years: boasting the Sixth largest economy in the world, millions having been lifted out of poverty, and a growing middle class, Brazil still has a host of problems. Problems such as- a poor public transport system, a failing public education system, and a sub-standard public health system. All of these essential services are over-stretched and under-funded.
The billions spent on ‘FIFA’ standard stadia could and should have been spent on ‘FIFA’ standard transport, education and health services. But these things are of no importance to the suits in Zurich who are just interested in profits, foreign ‘jollies’ and promoting brand FIFA. Yes of course the Brazilian government of Luiz Inacio Da Silva should never have bid for the tournament and have to take a lot of justified flak for doing so but FIFA should never have chosen their bid.
But what about the 20 million dollars which Sepp Blatter and co will be investing in sports and health, media and education programmes in the country as part of their Brazil 2014 legacy programme? Projects such as a 1 million television production internship programme for Brazilian students, allowing them the chance in FIFA’s words to gain ”invaluable work experience at the world’s biggest single-sport event; and the FIFA 11 For Health programme which uses football to teach children about health and citizenship and which will reach over 4,000 children over the coming months.
Now in fairness to FIFA they should be praised for these programmes which will especially benefit children in the area of healthy living . Credit where credit is due.
But when one thinks that FIFA are going to be making a R$2.5 billion, tax free profit (669 million pounds) from the tournament, a 20 million dollars legacy programme isn’t that much, is it? They could and should be investing more into South America’s most populous nation especially into the areas of greatest need i.e. public education (where Brazil came second last out of 40 countries in a Pearson’s Education quality index held last year and where 1 in 4 students don’t finish high school), Public health and public transport.
FIFA will also point to the significant boost that tourism will give to the Brazilian economy during and after the World Cup-with an estimated 3.7 million people expected to travel around the country during the World Cup, which based on a recent survey by Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism is expected to add around 3.03 billion to the economy. Minister of Tourism Vinicius Lages in an interview with Forbes magazine said,
“The tourism spending being forecast based on the surveys conducted by Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism do not include the indirect and induced financial transactions resulting from these visitors,” added Minister of Tourism Vinicius Lages. ”In other words, the total financial turnover for tourism during the 2014 FIFA World Cup may be more than double the anticipated figure if we consider the multiplier effect of these resources in the Brazilian economy.”
To boot the World Cup has created 47,900 jobs in the tourist and recreation sectors- another boost for the nation’s economy. Surely two big positives for the South American powerhouse? Well yes and no, because yes the event will put Brazil on the front page and travelling fans will get a chance to see first hand its wonders, and hopefully spread the word about it.
But on the other hand: If Mr Lages’ forecast are correct- that the event could add around 6.5 billion dollars to the economy, with total spending for the event up to $13 billion (with most coming from the taxpayer) Brazil is still going to be out of pocket. And regarding the newly created world cup jobs-will these jobs be sustainable following the tournament? Some of them may well be but many of them could well disappear.
Things will be ready come June 12 and Brazil will put on a good tournament, but their citizens will pay a heavy price for it.
Will FIFA learn from their South American odyssey? Methinks not. Having handed the 2018 World Cup to Russia- a dictatorship with serious hooliganism and racism problems, and the 2022 one to Qatar-a nation which has committed serious human rights abuses, FIFA aren’t in the business of learning from their mistakes.
But in Sepp and Co’s eyes a cool 669 million is worth all the aggro.