We are getting closer every day to one of the world’s most popular events. In less than 3 months we are all going to be screaming with joy, or perhaps suffering as we experience the 2018 Russia football World Cup. Whether your nation managed to qualify or not, there’s no doubt everyone is going to be stuck right in front of their TV watching the amazing games that Russia will be hosting for the entire world.
Every four years a different country has the privilege of hosting this event, and in 2014 the responsibility for that was given to Brazil. Despite the high expectations towards the Brazilian team of winning the cup, the local team faced a humiliating defeat against Germany during the semi-finals, with a historic result of 7-1. Some people say all this could had been a premonition made by the Brazilian population, as instead of celebrating, they went to the streets to protest and fight when it was announced that Brazil would host the World Cup.
Protesters against the World Cup a year before, right at the start of the Confederations Cup.
Now you may be asking yourselves, why? If Brazil is the five-time champion of the world, who breathe and live football every single day, wouldn’t they be happy to host the World Cup? The answer is no, the problem here is that the country wasn’t in the best economic or social position to accept this type of commitment. The Brazilian community was asking for an improvement in education and healthcare, instead of spending huge amounts of money in stadiums and infrastructure, generating a lot of upheaval. You may have known from before about these protests, but were they effective?
One of the most important aspects to understand why the government accepted this deal, and why the people were so unhappy about it, is corruption. The estimated cost of the 2014 World Cup was 13,600 million dollars, which came not only from the government but from private investors. This was justified by the national administration with the argument that the infrastructure would remain in the country and this was a huge advantage for everyone.
Maracaná stadium during reconstruction.
The people believed this partial truth because it was logic, the stadiums and other constructions would remain in Brazil. The part that they didn’t know was that all of this was going to be at the expense of poorly paid labourers, under unacceptable working conditions and contracts that only lacked the title of: “We are robbing money” in bold letters at the start of every contract.
In 2016, a Brazilian company dedicated to construction, Andrade Gutierrez, admitted that there was a construction mafia between Brazilian companies. These entities fought for construction and remodeling permits of some stadiums, with the intention of overpricing and stealing a portion of the money.
After this firm revealed the situation, mayhem ensued. Big names appeared with huge accusations, such as the former mayor of Rio Eduardo Paes, Sérgio Cabral (former governor of Rio) and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, also known as Lula.
This act tells a lot about the situation of the country, as the most powerful and influential people of Brazil only looked out for their own interests, without taking a second to think about the vast percentage of the population that lives under very poor conditions. Let’s take the case of the Arena Corinthians to illustrate our point. As The Guardian states, this stadium was given to former president Lula as a “gift” because of all the work he created for his country. Do you know who gave it to him? It turned out to be nobody else but Odebrecht. You guessed right, the company that was one of the biggest corruption scandals in 2017 and saw their revenue increase almost 8 times its original worth under the president’s mandate.
Arena Corinthians, with a capacity of 48,000 people, is the home of one of the biggest clubs in Brazil, Corinthians.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at the infrastructure the government said would be a huge advantage for the country. One of the most polemic stadiums, besides Arena Corinthians, is the Manaus stadium. With a maintenance cost of $233,000 according to Parallels, this stadium only held 2 matches in the entire tournament, and due to its expensive maintenance, the ‘Arena da Amazonia’ stadium is currently abandoned or used illegally for other purposes.
Another example is the Garrincha stadium of Brasilia, which is now being used as offices for federal employees and even as a parking slot for the city buses. And let’s not talk about Maracaná, where people are stealing its seats, homeless people sleeping in locker rooms and there are leakages all over the place. These recently mentioned scenarios are the case for most of the stadiums in the country, whether they’re either abandoned for the high maintenance costs and low attendance of public, or they have been occupied for other uses.
A little parenthesis needs to be made here. Remember we mentioned Eduardo Paes, Rio’s former city mayor? He said back in 2016 that the World Cup lacked planning and good execution but the Olympics were going to blow the roof and amaze the entire global community. He was wrong. The White elephants left because of the Olympics were as bad as the ones from the Brazil 2014 World Cup. This just leave us thinking, is football the problem? Us, based on all the obvious empirical evidence, suggest it isn’t, the issue is found on the corrupt government and entities that manage these massive events.
Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro for eight years (2009-2017), is accused of recieving 3,7 million pounds from Odebrecht for facilitating contracts in the Olympic Games, according to The Guardian.
Taking into account the vast amount of money that entered the country through publicity, match tickets, tourists and many other factors, it could be said that in the end Brazil made the right thing by accepting the World Cup. On the other hand, after seeing all the money that is now lost due to corrupt activity, there are now other ways to prove that people were right when they decided to protest, as the time and resources invested into this event clearly did not pay off. Sadly, all this funding could have been better invested elsewhere, notably in improving the socio-economic inequalities the country faces, such as in healthcare and education.
In turn, from a macroeconomic perspective, this could have definitely been a way to reduce the poverty and inequality that exists in Brazil. Diverse economic sectors, such as tourism and trade could have been boosted with this massive event, but instead the money was stolen or redistributed. The GDP of the country fell 26,5% from 2014 to the following year, showing a significant decrease on the country’s productivity. So far there aren’t any academic papers that show if world cups have an exact specific economic impact (because each year the initial conditions change), but one thing is certain: We are talking about a catastrophic phenomenon here, the one that shows how a country can end over 10 years of good economic growth because of a sport event.
What can be done now? First, even though many love going to Brazil to try some ‘caipirinhas’ and watch incredible football, Brazil shouldn’t be hosting any other massive sports event soon. First, the internal variable that caused all this mess needs to be fixed, corruption. If unmoral leaders keep on running the country, the cash will go straight into their pockets and the situation will remain the same. It is true that the left-wing political scene that Brazil has been experimenting these last years won’t make things easy but, eventually, Brazil will get right back on its feet with the right administration and we will see ‘joga bonito’ on the same Maracaná that today lies abandoned at Rio de Janeiro.