In a day´s time one of what they call the Greatest Shows on Earth will kick off of in the Land of Samba. I’m referring to the World Cup football in Brazil. I’m not following any league, but when it comes to major tournaments I’m sure in for some footie. Major sporting events like the World Cup football are considered a great honour for a country to host, but it seems that some in Brazil don’t quite agree with that. The undergound train system in Sao Paulo, the country´s most populous city, has been on strike for several days and it remains to be seen if strikers, demanding a 12% pay increase and the powers in charge can come to an agreement before kick-off of the very first match of the tournament on Thursday. Besides the strike in Sao Paulo people across the country have been hitting the street out of protest against the nation hosting the Cup. It might be an honour, but whether it is or not, it´s just darn costly. Brazil suffers from a magnitude of social problems and great economic inequality and the argument of many is that the country could have spent the €5 billion + on more pressing matters.
It is indeed the case that a great sporting event can put a city or country on the proverbial map. The 1992 Olympic Games did wonders for the city of Barcelona and the 2010 World Cup football was a big deal for South Africa as the host nation. This World Cup could be a great opportunity for the emerging powerhouse that is Brazil to profile itself. However, there is a strong argument to be made that this particular ‘honour’ might indeed not be worth the costs at this particular time.
These mega-events are predominately paid for by ordinary people in the form of tax-payers’ money. Yet, the great benefits of these events- I’m talking cold, hard cash here- go to FIFA in this instance and Big Business. What exactly does the tax-payer get in return besides some rather overpriced excitement?
I would like to draw a parallel between the World Cup in Brazil and the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, which were held in London. For seven years, from the announcement that London was to host the Games in 2005 until the day of the opening ceremony I had been a ‘bah-humbug’. It was all a big, fat very costly scam I thought. However, those few weeks in the summer for 2012 were such an exciting time. Great Britain was presented as this slightly quirky, highly inclusive nation I felt dead proud to be a part of and British athletes did so well in the medal league tables, it all was a tremendously uplifting experience and I´m not even British! This was very much needed after the riots the summer before, general economic gloom and doom and rather disappointing weather. But was it really worth the €10 billion or so that was spent on the Greatest Show on Earth? The country remained on a high for several weeks afterwards, but after the Paralympics finished it was very much business as usual including the economic doom and gloom. As there was much talk about the legacy of 2012 in the run up to the event, two years on it has been rather quiet in regards to that legacy and we can seriously wonder if the 2012 legacy hasn’t died a slow and very quiet death and all we are left with is the bill.
When it comes to football, I believe it has been robbed as a sport for the people by the people by big corporations, whose only concern is the moolah and who truly don’t give a shit about the people and their love for the game. Big Business fucks over the ordinary man and woman as if it were its birthright and the sad thing is that the ordinary man and woman let it happen out of love for the game and their club and/or their national team. Sounds like a rather abusive relationship to me.
I think that hosting the Cup and the Olympic Games, which Rio will be hosting in two years´ time could be very good for Brazil and Rio respectively. I have to agree, however, that the country and Rio in particular have too many issues to deal with in terms of social injustice and crime that it would’ve been better if the time and funds spent on these major sporting events would´ve been spent on bettering the life of ordinary Brazilians and Cariocas (inhabitants of Rio).
I think that it’s high time that those who benefit the most from major sporting events should be the ones who pay for it. I think it’s high time that the man and woman in the street – and their governments- say: “that´s just great, thanks a bunch for the ‘the honour’ but we sure ain’t paying for it”. If FIFA or UEFA or the IOC want a funky tournament they and the sponsors should pay for it themselves. It’s not that they lack the money. And if no country wishes to host the Greatest Show on Earth at their expense, then it´s FIFA or UEFA or the IOC who has a problem, not ordinary people and their governments.
If the bidding for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics is anything to go by, we might be off to a good start. From the eight initial bidding cities five have withdrawn their bid as the people of these particular cities realise that the honour is not quite worth the hassle and the money.
In the meantime, I do hope Brazil will pull off a good show, which I’ll surely enjoy and that the country will address it’s issues so it will be that powerhouse to the pride and benefit of every Brazilian.