For almost seven years now, since it was announced that Brazil would be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a lot of people, knowing that I am a Brazilian national, have asked me, “Are you going home for the World Cup?”
Initially, without pondering too much about the idea, my answer was a casual “Hmm…”
But, lately, after giving the matter more thought – and specially after being back there exactly one year before the beginning of the quadrennial tournament, the response became a definite “No!”
Don’t get me wrong – I love my home country, and have always cheered and celebrated our national soccer team just like any other native.
But this World Cup will be different.
Professedly, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest single-event sporting competition on the planet.
It is televised to every single country of the globe, reaches nearly half of the planet's 7+ billion inhabitants and moves hundreds of millions of dollars from broadcasting, licensing and merchandising rights, plus ticket sales to FIFA’s pockets.
Along with it all, to the host country and its cities, the promise of a huge boost in the economy because of the connected tourism; an increase in employment rates due to the related commercial activity, and the prospect of community development generated by new local business partnerships.
Well, all of it does not come without a price.
And, despite Brazil not being the only case, the bottom line is, taxpayers are footing the bill.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2010, Dennis Coates, a former president of the North American Association of Sports Economists and a professor of economics at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, published a report stating that, before the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in US, it projected a US$4 billion revenue; however, a study after the event revealed a loss of up to US$9 billion.
Back in mid-2013, when I was in Brazil, at the height of FIFA Confederations Cup (a prelude to this year’s event), one million citizens took to the streets of hundreds of cities in protest fueled by the enormous amounts, the constant budget blowing and the subsequent mismanagement of public funds in preparation for World Cup (Bloomberg estimates a final tally of over US$14 billion), while critical infrastructure problems, such as transportation, health care, housing and education, remain in the background, shadowed, ignored, if not abused.
Now, with just five months before kick off of the first game, half of 12 new stadiums are not yet completed, allegations of overcharging and corruption scandals run rampant, labor and safety codes are being blatantly disregarded and workers are dying on construction sites.
Just a few days ago, FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter stated that no other host nation has been so far behind in preparations for the World Cup like Brazil currently is, despite having more time than any other previous country.
He’s got a point. You see, Brazil is a peculiar country.
Notwithstanding that Brazil is the world's fifth largest country, not only by geographical area but also by population, there is an old local expression, “jeitinho Brasileiro” (“little Brazilian way”) that one may argue it sums up innate characteristics of its culture: easygoing, unhurried, forbearing.
While these traits could substantiate much of the country’s allure and charisma, they are also qualities that could justify a lot of the inequalities and injustices that having been plaguing the nation for many years.
But, one thing is for sure: “the little Brazilian way” is definitely changing.
The public demonstrations of 2013 were the largest in decades.
A movement that originally started against a fare hike in public transportation grew to a monumental scale that discussed many more problems: basic needs like education, health care and other public services, high cost of living, multiple scandals of corruption and embezzlement in the government, and abuse of special benefits by politicians, among other issues.
Yes, there were riots, confrontations with police, injuries and even fatalities. But, eventually, bus and train fares dropped, hindering laws were revoked, and fiscal responsibility pacts were established. Plus the announcement that more public demands will be granted in the near future.
Therefore, goals were accomplished.
The militants know that.
And this is a fresh generation of activists, using new technologies like mobile communication and social media outlets to spread the word and keep organized.
And, rest assured, they’re aware that the World Cup will bring the eyes – and the attention – of the entire planet to our country.
That is an opportunity that likely will not be missed – and that is my point.
I won’t be going to Brazil for the World Cup. Not because Brazil won’t be ready for it.
But because the World Cup won’t be ready for Brazil.