Why Brazil 2014 could widen the social divide.

This article was written by on Thursday 12th June 2014
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Alongside India, Brazil has the biggest divide in social equality in the world, but instead of using the wealth of its booming economy to decrease the divide, it has splashed out lavishly, unlike any nation before on infrastructure for the World Cup of 2014 and caused uproar with the population in the process.

As part of the massive infrastructure overhaul; new roads, airports, hotels, transport links and stadiums have been built (to some extent), but incredibly rushed in the process of doing so. Despite being awarded the World Cup for 2014 back in 2007, and several committees set up to plan and finalise the details of the competition. It wasn’t until autumn 2010 that all the plans were finalised for the event, giving around 3 years for everything to be completed and withstand trials before hosting the event.

Protests and Riots have become part of everyday life in Brazil's World Cup cities.
Protests and Riots have become part of everyday life in Brazil’s World Cup cities.

A prime example of the failure to deliver on time is the stadium on everyone’s lips, Arena Corinthians, as it prepares to host 6 games at the competition, whilst still being nothing more than a steel skeleton on the outside in places, and surrounded by scaffolding.

More to the point, is that after the world cup, some of stadiums will not be utilised to anywhere near their potential, as already has been witnessed in the Serie A in 2014. Although teams have used several venues as home fixtures this season, the following statistics are concerning. (Soccerway)

  • Fluminese now playing at the Maracana (Capacity: 78,838) have an average attendance of just 33,377. That is just 42% of the allocation.
  • Flamengo also playing at the Maracana have an even lower average attendance of just 23,100, a mere 29% of the allocation available.
  • Bahia who play in the Arena Fonte Nova, have a current average attendance of 15,580, 28% of the stadiums capacity.

In the capital Brasilia, there a three teams who all have their own stadiums, and play in the fourth tier or below. At a cost of nearly $1bn in renovations and a capacity of 68,000, it’s safe to say the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha won’t be hosting any of the local sides soon. Instead the venue will go barely untouched until it hosts football matches in the 2016 Olympics.

Can you close the door?
Can you close the door? – Toilet facilities outside the stadium in Natal are weeks away from completion. (Reuters)

Although highly praised by FIFA and a spectacular sight, the Arena das Dunas in Natal, with a 45,000 capacity, will become the home to Serie B side America RN after the competition.  However, the facilities just outside the venue are far from completion.

And then there is the $270M stadium in Manaus, which will host just 4 games, has a terrible looking pitch and most crucially, there is no team of professional level that could occupy the stadium once the competition is over. This would be like building a 42,000 seater stadium in the City of Ely. Madness.

Billions have been spent on Stadium builds, much of which has come from Federal investment and the same goes for transport links too. Roads have been upgraded (although many are still far from completed or indeed safe) and the projects such as the 17.7km Monorail in Sau Paulo that was supposed to be ready for the World Cup is unlikely to see service this year after sets of delays, strikes and engineering issues.

Millions of people live below the poverty line in Brazil and are left to fend for themselves with little or no government aid. Forced to live in terrible conditions, there are few opportunities towards living a better life, and they are also more widely vulnerable to Brazil’s every growing drug problem with Crack cocaine, the biggest of its kind in the world.

The Police and Military have ran operations to clear out the favelas (especially in Rio) of Drug dealers and crack dens and the actions of Police to try to bring law and order back to civilisation in the slums has been successful to some extent in removing drug dealers and gangs from favelas. However, the real issue is that because there are so many favelas for the Police to control, they can’t do so at the same time, and so once they are forced out, the dealers simply just move on to the next favela, and the operation begins all over again.

These areas is where a lot of protests have begun and then spread to the cities’ in the past, many motivated by the amount being spent on the World Cup instead of facilities and services to benefit the people. Consequently, a consistent Police presence to keep law and order has been made unwelcome by residents who also argue that the Police have a vendetta against them and what they are standing for.

A World apart - The City of Rio and one of its many Favelas.
A World apart – The City of Rio and one of its many Favelas.

The country is in dire need of a public sector revamp such as new hospitals and schools. And instead of looking after its people and helping to bring equality to all walks of life, they opted to spend billions and billions on what has turned out to be incomplete and oversized facilities. You can see why then, the biggest fans of the sport in the world are so upset about hosting the most prestigious tournament that football has to offer.

The social divide as a result of all these clashes puts it ever more into the media spotlight, and even if Brazil does have the 7th richest economy in the world, these problems won’t be disappearing overnight. There is certainly the paraphernalia for these clashes to continue well into the future having originally surfaced well over a year ago, and subsequently risk the social divide widening even further.

Brazil is not ready for 2014, that is evidently clear on a structural and civil note, and they will never recoup the $11bn+ of expenditure.

Finally, the real sad thing is that once the competition has come and gone, the media spot light on these issues will disappear in a heartbeat and the incidents will be forgotten about. When people reflect on Brazil 2014 it will be about a match, a goal, just like in South Africa. Who remembers without being reminded, the civil unrest, poor safety standards, and half complete hotels in 2010, and the miners strikes and violence after??? But everyone remembers the winning goal in extra time from Andres Iniesta to win the final for Spain. This is all because of one simple fact. We as football fans around the globe are obsessed with the sport that the World Cup showcases once every four years. Football.



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