Friday, May 23, 2014

Rife with Flaws and Questions, the World Cup is Coming

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil in less than a month, and preparations are going about as poorly as one could imagine. While much of the negative attention has been paid to Qatar 2022 in the past week, Brazil is coming up quickly in the rear-view mirror, baggage and all. The baggage comes to life in a variety of forms. Over-spending, corruption leading to protests and weather concerns have marred the build-up, an international mega-event trifecta of things that could go wrong.

While FIFA President Sepp Blatter was willing to go as far to say that awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was a 'mistake,' Brazil has been business as usual for soccer's international organization. Come into the country, force policy changes, get in, get out, profit. And on to the next country for the next edition.

Pele, Brazil's most famous footballer, went to a place where Blatter hasn't dared, saying in a recent lecture, "It's clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been."

Estimates peg Brazil's spending on the World Cup around $16 billion, the highest price tag for the Beautiful Game's biggest stage. The country spent $270 million on it's main stadium in Manaus, the most remote location of all the venues. Oh, and it will only be home to four games--$67.5 million per game. How much of the venue cost is the cost of corruption? Maybe more than we thought.

FIFA comes in demanding FIFA-quality stadiums, and Brazil is obliging, displacing citizens from their homes in the favelas whenever necessary.

Coming up right on the tail of the World Cup will be the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. So naturally, you would think that Brazil would use some of these newly-minted, broken-in and battle-tested stadiums for the Games, right? Well, if by some you mean one, then you're correct. There are no solid plans for using 11 of the 12 World Cup stadiums after the month-long World Cup has concluded. Just ask Greece or South Africa how vacant, decaying stadiums have worked out.

The exorbitant spending has led Brazilians to raise their voice and be heard, taking to the streets to protest. Last summer, protests began to turn to violence when the government raised public transportation fares ahead of the Confederations Cup, essentially a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. Given that Brazil's public transit costs are proportionally higher than New York City or Paris and the service is far less desirable, it was the piece that moved the people to a full-on boil.

Protests have not stopped with time either. The government had more or less banked on excitement generated by the World Cup to cool the fervor, but now protesters are ramping up the pressure. In the middle of May, there were protests in 50 cities across the country, including 10 of the 12 host cities. Will the actual playing of the games stop the activists? Only time will tell.

The thing with the protests that must not be forgotten is that they are part of a larger idea, perhaps even a larger movement. As Brazilian-born Drexel Sport Management student Kevis Pinto indicated in an interview with The Triangle last summer, "The protests going on in the major cities in Brazil are multifaceted, in a sense where the people aren't simply protesting for or against a single subject. There is a lot in play."

If there was a concise way to explain the ideals of the protests, then it would be the people's spin on the FIFA demands. FIFA demands FIFA-quality stadiums, but the people are demanding FIFA-quality infrastructure, education and healthcare.

With all of the protesting and spending and corrupting and building, the cries of climate have become largely ignored. Until now. According to AP reports, there has been a push to delay the starting times of afternoon games to avoid the peak heat. Moving around starting times, and more importantly, leaving chunks of time with no active games, could quickly blossom into a programming nightmare for ESPN & Co. After all, they do spend a pretty penny to produce these games.

The flaws can teach lessons, but only if the people in-charge want to learn. Brazil's wounds may be open to the public eye, but then there is still the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 edition in Qatar. Both have a unique set of flaws, and both show the those in-charge are yet to learn and more nightmares are in site.

"There were so many ways for Brazil to do this right, and they haven't done it," Travis Waldron of Think Progress told the SMTSU. "When talking to some economists, you wonder if Brazil will be some kind of tipping point, or is it going to flare up again, die down afterward and everybody forgets about it and keeps going on doing these events the same way."

But here we stand, still waiting for the tipping point. Less than a month away from the opener of the biggest stage for the beautiful game. The games will go on, rife with questions and flaws. The World Cup is coming.


Kevin Rossi is a senior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is serving as the Sports Information Assistant for Drexel Athletics and  intern at Comcast SportsNet in web production. Kevin has writing experience with, The Triangle, Temple University, and various outlets in a freelance capacity. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.


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