I do not wish to be a party pooper but it's true - I have a problem with the World Cup and it seems that I'm not alone. Thousands of angry Brazilians took to the streets on Monday in protest against the inordinate amount of money that has been spent on preparing the country to host the tournament, money that 60% of Brazilians feel could have been more wisely spent on improving infrastructure and public services.
And I'm inclined to agree.
This year's World Cup is reported to be the most expensive ever staged, an estimated price tag of $15 to $20 billion, $7 million of that having gone towards building news stadiums or bringing existing ones up to FIFA standards. Quite the renovation program. Let's pause for a moment to contemplate those figures. I'll say them again: $15 to $20 billion, in a country where widespread poverty and a huge income disparity still exist: It is estimated that 30 per cent of people are living without a sewerage system.
I'm certainly not condoning the actions of dssome of the protestors which have turned pretty nasty of late
but surely we can appreciate their frustration, anger and indignation?
"If the country could produce stadiums up to the standards of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, Brazilians thought they should also be able to demand FIFA-quality public services", remarked Ricardo Sennes, a fellow at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
Awyató , a chief of the indigenous Sateré-Mawé tribe concurs:
“For the indigenous communities and favela dwellers, it’s hard to see so much money spent on the stadiums when there is such hunger and poor health, and that money didn’t need to be spent”.
One such stadium is the controversial Area Amazônia in the jungle city of Manaus. There did actually use to be a stadium in the region but it was torn down because it didn't comply with strict FIFA regulations. So they spent $300 million dollars on a brand, spanking new stadium, a stadium that will play host to four world cup games and is unlikely to ever recoup costs once the games are over. The words "excess", "squander" and "insanity" spring to mind.
It's true that the same could be said of the London Olympics which came with its own hefty price tag of £8.77 billion. The big difference, however, is that while there are still many social ills to be addressed in the UK, the rich/poor divide is less stark and according to a BBC poll 74% of Brits would welcome the Games back to Britain.
It's a tough, one, Warriors, since great sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympics provide an opportunity for nations to come together in support of their countrymen/women, a chance to celebrate athletic prowess and the indomitable human spirit. I am certainly not saying that these events ought to be abandoned in light of the staggering costs of staging them but what I am saying is that we need to ensure that the citizens of the host nation benefit in some way, that any profit is poured back into local communities and that governments do not turn their back on their own people.