“The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, ‘To whose benefit?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
The long wait is over, national teams and fans are descending on Brazil. Wish I was going (heartbreak!) but gotta work, besides I have deep mixed feelings. Prices are outrageous; airfare, hotels, tickets, you name it. But more importantly, Brazilian taxpayers, like South Africans 4 years ago, and others (Greece, Summer Olympics, 2004, $15 billion price tag) who have hosted global sporting events, will be left holding the bag. A stadium in the remote Brazilian city of Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, cost Brazilians $275m, four games will be played there. There are no future plans for the stadium, and in the Amazon when you dont maintain a property it quickly sprouts weeds and lianas, concrete starts to crack, vipers and slavemaker ants move in…you get the picture. There’s plenty of price gouging too by contractors doing these mega-construction and infrastructure projects, lots of political donations and back room deals for sure. Moody’s released a report in March detailing all the pluses and minuses, allowing for tourism revenues and all potential financial benefits down the road, versus what Brazil will spend to host this event, and their conclusion was Brazil comes out with nothing. Some would say Brazil looses. No wonder protesters have taken to the streets, hard to cheer for the home team when the police are going door to door evicting slum dwellers to make way for an expressway to a stadium nearby that locals can’t even afford to enter.
But rest assured, Brazilian government officials, like White House and Pentagon spin-masters in my USA, will paint a lovely portrait for us of how this World Cup represents such a bonanza for Brazil. I wonder if they’ve ever visited Sochi where the Ruskies spent $51b of public money for a skiing event that lasted a couple of weeks. Or visited Cape Town, or Athens, where empty stadiums are surrounded by empty parking lots. Where there are no games or events to advertise on billboards that remain covered up. Regardless of what side you’re on, it all stinks. But yes, I’ll be watching “el juego hermoso”, ” the beautiful game”. Like millions of people worldwide, I can’t help it. And FIFA and the Brazilian government know that.