By Anupriya Singh
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
An apparatus is yet to be invented to gauge the level of excitement in the heart of every football connoisseur across the globe. Four years of anticipation have come to an end and the 20th FIFA World Cup is here.
Brazil is the fifth country to host this football extravagance twice. The nation hosted the World Cup for the first time in the year 1950 and underwent many transformations. But back then, the event was undoubtedly on a smaller scale with 13 teams in the fray, 22 games and an estimated 1.04 million people audience. The month long 2014 edition will have 32 teams participating, 64 matches and an expected audience of 3.6 million.
Unquestionably, this will affect the Brazilians at both macro and microeconomic levels. As per Brazil’s tourism ministry, Embratur, this event will bring US $11 billion to the nation. Sectors such as construction, food & beverages, business services, utilities and information services are expected to benefit majorly. The gross investment has summed up to US $14 billion, the largest sum ever spent by a nation for hosting a World Cup. Out of this gigantic sum of money, around 48% is from the public (government) sector. The nation aims to prove to the world that apart from soccer and samba, Brazil excels at research, innovation, development, modernity and on the economic front as well. The event is speculated to enable Brazil to build the strongest tourism base in Latin America.
But reality is not so rosy, it’s grey. Proposed transport links of over 4,300 km have not been completed. Out of the 50 infrastructure projects announced in 2010 by the Brazilian sports ministry, 13 have been cancelled, and the new projects introduced were on a smaller scale than initially planned. Ten thousand visiting journalists may find themselves living a nightmare due to poor availability of internet and mobile services. A limited number of visitors due to price increases and capacity exhaustion- ‘the bottleneck effect’- is also feared. This places the very purpose of organizing such a large scale sporting event in jeopardy. Brazilian football legends like Ronaldo have also publicly slammed the country’s preparations for the Cup.
There has been large scale discontent in this football loving nation over the expenditure of public money for the tournament. Protests were sparked by an increase in ticket prices of public transport, a widely criticized move. The streets have been a warzone for over a year now, killing 27 and wounding 300 people.
In 2007, the opportunity to host the FIFA World Cup 2014 came with a promise of a new era of prosperity in Brazil. Today all that is visible to the people are bricks, steel and mortar, not new hospitals or schools. The nation appears to be deviating from its motto of ‘ordem e progresso’ (order and progress). With visitors flocking in for the tournament, the citizens are left questioning where their $11 billion has gone, as just a certain stratum of society are visibly benefitting from its expenditure. Another statistic- The preparation process had created approximately 3.63 million job opportunities per year across the nation. The question arising here is- will the figures remain the same post the World Cup? All that native eyes can see are displacement and debt as after the W.C., the country will gear up to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
On the eve of the world’s prayers for their favourite teams this tournament, 31.96 million residents of the Federative Republic of Brazil, living below the poverty line, ask for bread and not soccer pitches and concrete structures.
Anupriya is a second year undergraduate student in Economics at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. An avid reader, she wants to travel across India to comprehend the varied façade of the Indian culture and traditions. Apart from academics, Anupriya has also dabbled in extracurricular activities like debate and documentary making. She has won numerous awards for her documentaries on social issues. Sports, primarily football, and painting constitute her main interests.