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Among my peers, I’m famous for my ability to suck the fun out of events by heavily politicising them, and sadly for them, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil has not escaped my attention.
Does anyone remember that time when Brazil was host to one of the worst natural disasters the world has ever seen? Those particular floods and landslides happened in 2011 and the recuperation effort cost Brazil around $1.2 billion it couldn’t afford.
Last year, Brazil experienced devastating droughts that severely damaged many of its most profitable industries. The impact of these droughts clocked up about $8 billion in economic losses.
In such precarious social, environmental and economic circumstances, it’s difficult to understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to spend an estimated $16 billion on hosting the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Brazilians have demonstrated their opposition to hosting the World Cup. Displaced citizens have erected a plastic tent city 15 minutes from the main stadium in Sao Paolo. While the FIFA World Cup hasn’t necessarily made people homeless, the point of the vigil is to demonstrate that the World Cup campaign has taken precedence over dealing with pre-existing poverty and inadequate social infrastructure.
Brazil’s street artists are using their talents to paint a lively picture of the bizarre juxtaposition of massive voluntary spending on sport against existing endemic poverty. Needless to say, footballs are not edible. Tourists do not provide healthcare. Sporting infrastructure does not provide education.
Since last year, millions of Brazilians have been taking part in passionate, lively street protests that often turn violent, demonstrating their disgust at their Government’s frivolous spending. It’s a slap in the face for civilians to see resources wasted on recreation when transport infrastructure is inadequate, raw sewage still runs in the streets and the education system is a mess.
The desperate, ill-thought out construction of the 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign has unashamedly overruled the basic human rights and needs of the Brazilian people.
I do understand the reasoning behind Brazil’s choice to hold the FIFA World Cup; that it’s not just an exercise in showboating. Potentially, the revenue from an event like this could be a boost for Brazil.
But what happens afterward – when everyone packs up and goes home?
The trouble lies within the global tradition of moving international sporting events around to different host countries. The entire infrastructure: accommodation villages, venues and stadiums are often built with debt, on land where there is barely room to hold such an event.
A much better business model would be to cast a critical eye over the countries that would benefit the most from revenue generated by events such as the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games and the (snort) Commonwealth Games (as if anyone watches them), and hold these events in those places indefinitely – not just as a one-off.
For example, Brazil is holding the Cup this year, and is due to host the Olympic Games in 2016. How’s about taking it a step further, and having Brazil continue to host all major international sporting events until the Government has generated enough cash to provide all citizens with an acceptable standard of living? Once Brazil is sorted, move the events to another poor country that could do with a hand.
The potential social and economic benefits that could be reaped from events like this are wasted due to a lack of foresight and poor organisation. They could be used to make inroads into global inequality on a permanent basis – combining our love of sport with a movement to try and improve the lives of our fellow humans.
Even though I’d rather eat a football than watch the FIFA World Cup, I am certainly not against international sporting events, per se.
I just think it’s time we ran them a bit more intelligently.