In this article, we shall examine the Brazil protests leading up to the 2014 World Cup. Namely, we will examine the arguments made the Brazilian leadership with regards to the development benefits that the country would receive by hosting the World Cup. We will also discuss the Brazil protests with regards to criticisms with regards to the costs of hosting the World Cup tournament. This is an important issue in international relations, since it deals with issues of politics and international development.
Much of this stems from a discussion on the exact benefits of hosting a world-wide sporting event. And “[d]epending on which side of the argument you choose to listen to, the hosting of any major sporting event can both be seen as an opportunity for great development, or an impending disaster” (Atkins, 2013). However, as we shall discuss, hosting these events are not without significant costs. For example, “[f]or the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the total budget exceeded $40 billion. In London (2012), the cost of hosting was initially projected to be $4 billion; it is now over $20 billion and counting. South Africa spent almost $12 billion to host the 2010 World Cup, while Merrill Lynch estimates that Qatar will spend over $65 billion to prepare for the 2022 world soccer competition” (Zimbalist, 2011). And it was said that the Brazilian government spent 11.6 billion dollars for the World Cup (Whitefield, 2014).
Brazil just recently hosted the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament. But the preparation for the games was years in the making, with some suggesting that Brazil knew that they may host such games in 2003, when “Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced that under the principle of rotating the tournament round the various continents, 2014 would be South America’s turn” (Vickery, 2012). When Brazil received the games, they made the argument to Brazilians and others that the World Cup would be great for economic development in Brazil. Others however were more skeptical. And as we shall see below, much of the reasons had to do with the promises of economic development in Brazil, and the different reality that came from hosting the 2014 World Cup games. In addition, many saw the backing of various stadiums being build. But with that, they also wanted similar funding for social services (Whitefield, 2014).
Brazil Protests Regarding the World Cup Games
Critics of Brazil hosting the World Cup games argued that the government was going to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure for the games, little of which would be a help to the economic development of Brazilians. And early reports in 2013 seemed to at least support some of these worries. For example, Atikins, cites work by Tim Vickery with regards to the costs and spending projects the Brazilian government undertook with regards to the World Cup construction. And he explains that “[a] budget of $13.3 billion was set for the tournament, with the majority of money to be spent on projects around the host cities. Instead, as Vickery notes below, a huge amount of the budget for the tournament has been used on building the stadiums—at the cost of improved highways, subway systems, airports and ports.” Moreover, what also upset Brazilians was that “Brazil opted to spend a particularly high amount of money on the stadium developments for two reasons: to implement green technology and to renovate existing iconic grounds. However, both elements of that decision come under intense scrutiny when it comes down to evaluating finances. Firstly, the decision to use high-end materials to add in solar panels, water recycling facilities and retractable stands have required the use of foreign technology and labour. Beyond that, the Global Post report that there will be an annual maintenance cost of 10 percent of the total price. That is to say, the total cost of the stadium will double within just 10 years.” Moreover, various delays in the project contributed to higher financial costs (Whitefield, 2014).
Thus the Brazilian protests focused a great deal around the exuberant costs of the stadium, as well as what little else was being funded by the government. The various cancellations of much needed development and infrastructure projects infuriated many within Brazil (Atkins, 2013). And because of these concerns, in 2013, over a million Brazilians protested government actions regarding the costs of the 2014 World Cup. And there were protests throughout 2014, although they were much smaller in size compared to the ones in 2013 (Whitefield, 2014). Part of this had to do with the increased violent nature of the protests, something that many Brazilians did not support (Whitefield, 2014).
Along with high costs for stadiums, there are were also a set of other issues surrounding the preparations for the 2014 World Cup games in Brazil. For example, many teachers were upset at low wages and minimal support fro the government compared to the costs and investments into building stadiums and preparing for the games. In addition, others such as the police, as well as street cleaners were also upset with low wages (Bowater, 2014).
Changing Domestic Laws in Brazil for the World Cup
In addition, many of the Brazil protests throughout the months leading up to the 2014 World Cup had to do with pressure by outside actors such as FIFA to change domestic law. For example, “[o]ne of the most controversial aspects of hosting a World Cup is that FIFA require a country to, at least temporarily, change their laws to match the governing body’s requirements. Those laws involve along FIFA to avoid tax on earnings at the event, preventing businesses from associating with the tournament, and, in Brazil’s case, the permitting of alcohol sales inside stadium” (Atkins, 2013). In addition, many were upset with the high ticket prices that Brazilians and others had to pay to see the games live. The prices were clearly out of line with how much most Brazilians make.
2016 Brazil Protests
Along with the various problems that plagued Brazil for the 2014 World Cup games, Brazil continues to face a wide range of challenges leading up to the 2016 Olympics, which are also held in the country.
For example, Brazil is caught up in a serious corruption scandal in which the leader of the country, “Dilma Rousseff, is alleged to have manipulated her government’s economic figures prior to 2014’s election. She says the consequent impeachment proceedings against her are a “coup” she will fight to the last” (Williams, 2016). However, even critics of Rousseff are not in the clear. For example, “Leading her opponents is Eduardo Cunha, speaker of Brazil’s lower house. He says Rousseff has brought “economic chaos” on Brazil, but is facing his own series of proceedings related to corruption and money-laundering allegations” (Williams, 2016). There are also investigations into whether the Petrobras corporation, which is linked to the state, may be tied to infrastructure projects for the upcoming games (Williams, 2016). Furthermore, there are many infrastructure projects that were to be done for the Olympics that are not finished. Something like a subway system that is not complete will lead to further logistical challenges during the Olympics in Brazil (Williams, 2016).
These sorts of problems in Brazil are on top of the economic recession that the country is facing, which is one of the worst in its history. Moreover, there are many Brazilians frustrated with the inefficiencies of the state. This coupled with unemployment, has led to protesters in Brazil.
Then, if this was not bad enough, Brazil is also dealing with the Zika virus, which causes birth defects in babies. While Brazil has sent out hundreds of thousands of military during Carnival, for example, the attention was on the Zika virus. While security remains a serious concern, many of the troops are spending their time on public education for the Zika virus, which is leaving a gap in other security-related needs (Williams, 2016).
Atkins, C. (2013). The Social Costs of Brazil Hosting World Cup 2014. Bleacherreport, June 6th, 2013. Available Online: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1663701-the-social-cost-of-brazil-hosting-world-cup-2014
Bowater, D. (2014). Whatever Happened to Brazil’s World Cup Protests? Al Jazeera America, July 10th, 2014. Available Online: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/10/brazil-protests-worldcup.html
Vickery, T. (2012). Is Brazil Ready to Host the 2014 World Cup? 26 September 2012. Available Online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-radio-and-tv-19705712
Whitefield, M. (2014). The Legacy of Brazil’s World Cup Protests. Miami Herald, June 17th, 2014. Available Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article1966927.html
Williams, O. (2016). Rio 2016 Olympics: What Brazil is worrying about with 100 days to go. CNN, April 27th, 2016. Available Online: http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/27/sport/olympics-rio-2016-countdown-100-days-to-go/index.html
Zimbalist, A. (2011). Brazil’s Long To-Do List. Americas Quarterly, Summer 2011, Available Online: http://www.americasquarterly.org/zimbalist