World Cup woes

2014-04-20 15:00

Hundreds march against the World Cup, the most popular sports event on the planet.

The government loses popularity and has to constantly explain the cost escalation, delays in airport expansions and the deaths of workers in stadiums that are far from complete.

Who could have guessed that this is the reality in Brazil less than 60 days before kickoff at the Itaquerao Stadium in São Paulo?

The official slogans on TV say that “Soccer is Coming Home” and that one must “Imagine the Party”, but the reality on the streets tells a different story.

Last week, an opinion poll by Datafolha, a ­ respected survey institute, showed a shocking scenario. From those polled, 55% said the tournament would bring more bad than good things to Brazil and only 36% thought the World Cup would leave a positive legacy.

In 2008, shortly after the event was awarded to Brazil, public euphoria reigned. A full 79% said organising the tournament was a good thing.

In those times, Brazilians who were against hosting the event were seen as either lunatic or eccentric.

Not any more. Opposition to the World Cup is now mainstream. Sure, Brazilians are still mad about soccer and only a fringe will become indifferent when the Seleção, Brazil’s national team, take to the pitch. Huge parties will erupt from north to south if the yellow shirts conquer a sixth trophy.

But that is despite what is now regarded as an organising process full of mistakes, bad judgements and lack of transparency.

The main culprits are the 12 stadiums. Initial estimates were of a total spending of $2?billion (R200?billion), and not a cent of public money.

The final balance will be a far higher $3.6?billion and public authorities had to pick up a large part of the bill to speed up completion.

Not that it has been enough. At least two stadiums (including the one where the initial match will be played on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia)

will be ready barely a month before the World Cup starts.

Many will become white elephants, which is similar to what has happened in South Africa.

The most expensive of all the stadiums is in Brasilia (cost: $650?million). It has a capacity of 72?000 and will host local teams that struggle to attract more than 10?000 fans in important matches.

Finally, authorities failed to deliver new airports, roads and railways, as was once promised.

It is not surprising then that many people have taken to the streets recently to complain about the incompetence of the government and Fifa’s bossiness.

More protests during the tournament are expected. And how about the national team?

Ironically, this has been a rare cause for optimism, especially after victory in the Confederations Cup last year.

Brazil striker Neymar has strengthened his position as commander of the squad (even if his performance at Barcelona is far from inspiring).

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges might just save the whole thing from being a disaster.

Stadiums Compared

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