6/10/2014 @ 2:36下午
Abandoned construction projects. Subway workers striking.
Unfinished toilets in unfinished stadiums. Airplane tents instead of airplane terminals.
Welcome to Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.
Brazil was hoping for an economic shot in the arm from hosting the world’s most watched tournament. But they may end up shooting themselves in the foot in terms of world perceptions of their nation. And this could not only hurt short-term tourism but travelers’ desires to return to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
When Brazil was awarded both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio several years ago, there was excitement and optimism that the world would soon come to learn the best of Brazil, and that, simultaneously, infrastructural improvements would take shape befitting of an economy that had grown to be among the ten largest in the world.
Today, Brazil sits as the 7th largest economy, with a GDP of $2.4 trillion. That’s good.
Today, Brazil’s Gini Coefficient, which measures the degree of income inequality within a country, is 54.7, which is the 13th highest (i.e. worst) among over 150 nations for which such data is tracked, and the 3rd highest among the 32 nations competing at the World Cup, with only Honduras and Colombia worse.
Large gaps between the haves and have-nots, coupled with broken government promises spawned by a combination of corruption and bureaucracy, creates an air of internal resentment, frustration, and anger among a nation’s citizens that is hardly good for business.
And if stadiums aren’t completed, airports feel third world-ish, and public workers at subways and museums strike or protest during the tournament, then this creates a massive public relations black eye which the nation may not soon recover from.
This Cup is the most expensive in history at a current estimated price tag of $11.5 billion, with $3.6 billion in taxpayer money going towards stadiums.
Two-thirds of the public expenditures had initially been earmarked for improving local transportation with only one-third going to facility construction. Now that split is more like 50-50. Congruently, a bullet train from Rio to Sao Paulo has not come to pass as was promised, nor have major upgrades to many of the airports…some of which are using tents for terminals. Comforting.
FIFA wanted only 8 host cities, but Brazil chose 12 host cities to spread the wealth of these games. Unfortunately, in doing so, they spread themselves too thin, and it would appear that a lack of organizational structure could severely plague the smooth operation of this tournament.
All of this leaves me with two thoughts going forward.
First, Brazilian officials running these facilities and cities had better do their best to put a good foot forward. Part of the inflated economic impact estimates projected before the tournament were based on expected increases in tourism to take place AFTER the Cup. But if stories of infrastructural underdevelopment, personal safety, or public riots ensue, it will give the nation a black eye which will not only hurt short-term tourism but will likely dissuade some from wanting to travel to Brazil in 2016 for the Olympics. After all, it’s already not a cheap proposition to get to Brazil in the first place. The last thing they need is more negative PR.
Second, FIFA needs to get their act together when selecting host nations in the future. Their selection of Brazil is looking suspect in light of the issues raised above, and we won’t even talk about the malfeasance involved with the 2022 Qatar event. Just as the major college conferences in American collegiate sports are exerting pressure upon the NCAA to reform, perhaps the top soccer leagues in the world need to exert similar pressures on FIFA in order to instill a selection process that ensures that World Cup players and fans can be assured of top-quality facilities and operational logistics before recklessly awarding the tournament to countries ill-equipped to put on a world class show.