By Upali Bhattacharya
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Football lovers all around the world are gearing up for the 2014 edition of the World Cup. This one month extravaganza is set to take place in Brazil for the second time. But the Brazilians are not happy about it. Amid all the cheer from everywhere around the globe, the voices of protest against FIFA 2014 have been silenced. The pleas of Brazilians have gone unnoticed. Why is the world’s biggest football tournament scoring the wrong goals?
Brazil was chosen as the host country for FIFA for a second time in 2007. The economy was in full swing, with an annual growth rate of about 5%. An obvious cause for jubilation, preparations for the same began in full swing. However, in June 2013, massive protests erupted in the country. Originally beginning around August 2012, these protests were against rising transportation fees in buses. Known as ‘Revolta do Busão’ or Bus Rebellion, the first rebellions started in Natal. While the protestors managed to convince municipal authorities to reduce bus fares, demonstrations in other parts of Brazil relating to the same continued.
Protests against rising bus fares were nothing but a tipping point in the expression of discontent amongst Brazilians. Rising inflation in a developing country like Brazil was being met with solutions that only made it higher. Brazilian masses bore the brunt of failed economic policies on the part of the government. The prime reason behind this economic mess was over-budgeting for W.C. 2014.
With only half the stadiums being finished, the cost for the W.C. has run up by several million dollars. Financial scandals relating to the W.C. and the 2016 Summer Olympics have put the country in massive debt, naturally resulting in inflation. With only two weeks to go before the tournament, organizers are having grave doubts regarding Brazil’s readiness for the World Cup. FIFA is also planning to shift several venues. Coupled with Brazil’s already grim socio-economic situation, its capability as a host has been extremely compromised.
The biggest loser in this chaos is the Brazilian public. With inflation rates as high as 27%, the average Brazilian is losing a lot more than the gains he was previously promised. Major sporting events like the Olympics and the cricket and football World Cups do rake in a lot of money for host countries. However, mismanagement of such money in developing countries is rampant. While Brazil is at the peak of its economic crisis right now, another developing country that hosted a mega sporting event is still facing the brunt of the same. Brazil’s economic downturn because of mismanaged funds bears striking resemblance to India’s situation prior to the Commonwealth Games.
Complete neglect of social development costs, high inflation, increase in displacement, misuse of labour coupled with an overbearing economic down slide, were the after effects of the Commonwealth Games in India. Sadly, Brazil’s socio-economic situation is taking a turn for the same. The Commonwealth Games cost the Indian government over Rs. 2,300 Crore and FIFA 2014 is setting Brazil’s government coffers back by an astounding 28 billion Reals (approximately 13 billion dollars).
Brazil is known for its socio-economic inequality. The poorest of the poor pay the highest taxes but are the last recipients of any government spending. Their ire pouring out in the form of these mass protests is definitely not uncalled for. While the current government, formed by the Brazil Worker’s Party, has done a considerable amount of work in changing the situation, a complete revival will take a longer time to manifest.
These protests also cast light on a larger issue- who benefits from mega sporting events like these? Is it the hosts, the organization, the players or the spectators? One thing remains clear; the permanent loser is definitely the sport. While economies can be revived and faith of the masses can be resurrected, one thing that definitely cannot be won back is lost love for a sport. The CWG scam did not prevent the games from happening, but it did bring down the level of the sports played within it. Similarly, scams in the IPL franchise have in no way lessened its importance, but they have turned cricket lovers against the commercialization of the sport. The W.C. 2014 will take place and will also be loved by football fanatics worldwide, but it will leave a bitter taste in its star team’s country: Brazil.
The author is a first year college student, pursuing sociology honors in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. She is a pass out from Mount Carmel School, Anand Niketan as the topper of humanities. She is an avid reader, mostly fiction. She also likes debating and has been part of various MUN sessions. Issues like politics, religion, culture, society etc are her areas of interest. Apart from reading, she also writes abstract verses, listens to music, and also likes watching Television series. Issues of terrorism, religion, feminism and gender also lie in her interests of reading and writing.