As we get to the final stretch of Brazil's 2014 World Cup Soccer Tournament the euphoria and adrenalin that the sport commands is all consuming and complete. For soccer (football) fans the world over the end-stage of the tournament is like being on steroids. It's that exciting an engaging.
But I would like to inject a note of sobriety in this entire fixation with the game and the peripheral issues that are just as germane and salient to it. Especially, the fact that its being played in a country riddled with mass protests, demonstrations, construction site fatalities, low wages for work and late completion of playing facilities and hotels.
Did Brazil bite off more than it could chew?
Perhaps, Brazil was set up to fail judging from the negative tabloid reporting and biased press coverage in rich, Western nations. It is as if they were applauding every failure, every setback and all of the pre-tournament snafus and blunders that the Brazilian government committed.
I don't know.
Perhaps the underlying issue is the perception by rich, European nations that soccer is "their thing" and that countries like South Africa and Brazil, emerging economies, are not equipped or suited to hold these billion dollar sporting showcase events.
If that's the case, there is some merit here. For one thing the cost to host a tournament like the World Cup Football Tournament is prohibitive and as in the case of Brazil come at the expense of putting money in healthcare, education and job creation. So host nations must spend enormous sums of money to build new stadiums, upgrade old ones and bring hotel, airports and transportation services I line with FIFA's demands.
So today in Brazil millions of poor and working class cannot afford the cost of a ticket to see their national team play. Brazil's police and security units have ruthlessly cracked down on protesters and engaged in a sustained pogrom in the slum areas of Rio called Favelas.
The protesters are angry and frustrated with their national government for spending an estimated $14 billion in public funs to host the World Cup. By contrast the cost of the games is equivalent to 61% of funding for education and 30% of the cost of healthcare.
Private companies, including those in the services and construction industries, will be the main beneficiaries of this public money. Adding to this cost is the forced evictions of the poor living in the favelas (slums) and the dispossession of indigenous people from their lands to build stadiums and parking lots.
To justify this violent response, the federal government has pushed to pass legislation that would criminalize all anti"'FIFA protests as "terrorism", with 12 to 30 year prison sentences for those convicted.
The state has deployed more than 200,000 troops, armed with such weapons as Israeli drones, German anti"'aircraft tanks, and rooftop missile defense systems, to protect the World Cup from protestors.
Add to this the fact that the often promised legacy of visitors, foreign investment, economic growth, modern infrastructure and the like, is not only not guaranteed but it also has been proven to be illusive and nonexistent at best. Only large multinational corporate sponsors benefit. The host country is often left holding the proverbial bag.
Look at South Africa for example. That country spent nearly $20 billion on the FIFA world cup but only recouped a measly $323 million. Of the projected 450,000 visitors that FIFA and its PR entourage said would flood to South Africa only 309,000 materialized. Economically, for South Africa the 2010 FIFA World Cup was a resounding flop.
But not only that. Many of the stadiums are now expensive white elephants -- a testimony to Neroian money splurging on grandiloquent structures that are useless after one or two events. I predict that the same will happen in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff will be left holding an empty bag with tremendous social problems.
Remember that the Sochi Winter Olympics held in Russia at a staggering cost of $51 billion, even though today 18 million Russians live in poverty and migrant workers were paid less than $2/hour to build the necessary infrastructure.
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