Brazil Has Lost the World Cup

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Brazil has failed to improve its public services and invest appropriately in infrastructure.

I confess that I didn’t want to write this, but the circumstances and some personal angst force me to do so. Seeing all the buzz surrounding the FIFA World Cup as Brazil head into the last 16, I couldn’t help but remember the finals in South Africa in 2010, an event I had the pleasure to cover.

I went to several games, traveled around the country and saw much of the new infrastructure. Despite many problems, I came to realize that South Africa understood the importance of hosting a mega sports event and took the opportunity in several areas with enough professionalism. Was there corruption? Of course. But South Africa, famous in recent history for being the birthplace of apartheid and the country of Nelson Mandela, became the first African nation to hold the World Cup. And that slightly improved their position amid international public opinion.

Fast-forward to 2014 and we see failure after failure by the Rousseff government. The World Cup in Brazil was announced in 2007. Yes, seven years ago. What have we done during this period? A few overpriced stadiums here. A shameless airport renovation there.

What was announced as the “World Cup paid by companies” soon became the World Cup paid by the government. That’s right: Brazilian citizens are paying billions in tax so that FIFA bosses are satisfied. And the worst thing is the ghost of white elephants: What is Brazil going to do with those “FIFA standard” stadiums in cities where there’s not even a popular football team like Manaus or Cuiabá? “Yes, but that happened in South Africa too.” But are we so foolish that we can’t learn from the mistakes of others?

Despite the goals flying in, the truth is Brazil has already lost the World Cup. Brazilians have thrown in the trash the opportunity to invest in infrastructure, public transportation and decent services. The Brazilian government didn’t plan anything in advance and then tried to rush things at the eleventh hour — or in stoppage time, if you prefer. I am ashamed for the incompetence of our government, who don’t even know the meaning of “planning ahead.” Improvements in infrastructure are not only for foreigners or internal tourists. The World Cup could have been a legacy for Brazilians, if only it had been done correctly.

I wonder why we didn’t do it properly? Is it enough for us to be the “country of football”? Really? Is that enough for a nation? We proudly say that we are the only country to win the World Cup five times — possibly a sixth on July 13. We are proud that Brazil is the only national team that has participated in every World Cup. This is all said and done but, the way things are going, the only ones who will profit from the World Cup will be taxi drivers and English schools due to inflated prices.

In July 2010, then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was asked about one of his promises: the bullet train between São Paulo and Rio. He said:

“The World Cup in Africa hasn’t even ended and you are already asking ‘where are the Brazilian airports? Where are Brazilian stadiums? Where are the Brazilian bullet trains? Where are Brazilian subways?’ As if we are a bunch of idiots who don’t know how to do things and set our priorities.”

Well, nearly two weeks into the World Cup, I’m still asking these questions but I don’t get an answer. So I guess, I must be an idiot. We, Brazilians, are millions and millions of idiots, according to Lula. Because I certainly can’t find the bullet trains, the new airports or the private stadiums.

And I feel sorry for tourists who have come to Brazil and want to rent a car. If one has a GPS, maybe he can get to a hotel — of course, that is if he doesn’t get robbed amid the country’s spiraling crime or if the car doesn’t sink into a pothole on the atrocious roads. Yes, we can’t even construct proper streets, so how can we build bullet trains?

Many nations use events like the World Cup to grow economically. If Brazil was an intelligent and honest country, we would have invested properly to improve the lives of Brazilians. Instead, the Rousseff government has spent over $11 billion on a World Cup. Unfortunately, we are too used to the “Brazilian way.” Who knows? Maybe we’ll do a better job in the 2054 World Cup.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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