Will Brazil be left counting the cost of hosting the World Cup and Olympics?

June 11, 2013

Will Brazil be left counting the cost of hosting the World Cup and Olympics?

by , Latin America correspondent

The growing influence of the Brics nations in world affairs was symbolised by the staging of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the World Cup in South Africa 2010, and will be further underlined by Brazil’s forthcoming hosting of both events.

Leaving aside the public relations value of putting these host countries in the global spotlight, they have tried to use these mega-events to boost development by accelerating investments in infrastructure and lifting services, governance and local business to international standards.

However, the cost to the public purse and the communities affected can be enormous, prompting criticism that the money would be better spent at grassroots level, on improving health and education, rather than on awarding prestige projects to construction companies.

South Africa and Beijing have been left with expensive white elephants, because the huge stadiums they constructed are now rarely used. Many believe Brazil might suffer the same drain on resources.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) now includes legacy issues in its regulations for the assessment of hosting bids, but Fifa makes no such formal consideration in deciding which nations should stage the World Cup.

Nádia Campeão, the deputy mayor of São Paulo, which will host several matches next year, said Fifa should do more to take the legacy issue into account. “But even if it is not worried, the host city should be,” she said. “There has to be more assessment of their demands. Do we really need to do everything?”

Campeão, along with most participants in a panel debate on the subject, said the mega-events were worth the expense.

“Developing countries and cities like São Paulo still have a lot to do, but the big events can help us,” she said. “The benefits are not just in tourism and business, but reach all the way through society. They create jobs, which our young people need, and reach all the working population.”

Liu Kang, of Shanghai Jiaotong University, said the Beijing Games was an important step in China’s efforts to gain greater acceptance in the international community.

“It’s worthwhile,” said Liu. “The intangible effect is enormous … This is especially important for China, India and Brazil to put us under [the] international spotlight and to show that there is more to these countries than economic capacity.”

But there were dissenting voices. Letícia Osório of the Ford Foundation said many people in Rio have become worse off because of forced evictions for sports-related construction projects. Rather than help poor communities, she said the Olympic development was focused on boosting real-estate prices in upmarket Barra, where the infrastructure improvements are largely focused.

The city, said Osório, also suffered a wasteful drain on public funds in hosting the Pan American Games in 2007. Many of the facilities built for that event, at great cost, subsequently proved inadequate for the Olympics and had to be demolished or rebuilt.

A key problem, according to Osório, was that the IOC, Fifa and the local organisers failed to consult adequately with local communities.

“They need to get civil society involved in discussions,” she said. “That’s true for the government, but Fifa and the IOC also have to change the way they assess bids to include human rights and better values.”


Source: The Guardian

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