News / Arts & Entertainment

    Woes Sap Hopes Behind Brazil Sport Extravaganzas

    Heavy traffic is pictured during rush hour in front of Maracana stadium, one of the venues hosting the upcoming Confederations Cup, in Rio de Janeiro, June 7, 2013.
    Heavy traffic is pictured during rush hour in front of Maracana stadium, one of the venues hosting the upcoming Confederations Cup, in Rio de Janeiro, June 7, 2013.
    Reuters
    All but diehard fans of international soccer could be forgiven for not knowing, much less caring, about the Confederations Cup, a two-week tournament that kicks off in Brazil on Saturday.
     
    For 200 million Brazilians, though, the competition is the first in a series of big events that will say a lot about their country, their first-world ambitions and the government's ability, amid fading confidence in Latin America's biggest economy, to deliver on the promise of a Brazil transformed.
     
    The Confederations Cup, an eight-team competition, will  serve as a dress rehearsal for two far bigger shows on Brazilian soil - the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
     
    Japan's national soccer players arrive ahead of the Confederations Cup which starts on June 15, at Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, June 12, 2013.Japan's national soccer players arrive ahead of the Confederations Cup which starts on June 15, at Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, June 12, 2013.
    x
    Japan's national soccer players arrive ahead of the Confederations Cup which starts on June 15, at Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, June 12, 2013.
    Japan's national soccer players arrive ahead of the Confederations Cup which starts on June 15, at Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, June 12, 2013.
    When it won rights to host those events, Brazil was on a tear. They were supposed to showcase a country that in the century's first decade channeled booming export revenue, soaring consumer demand and ambitious social programs into economic growth that catapulted over 30 million people out of poverty.
     
    But now, at showtime, Brazil has lost its luster.
     
    Economic stagnation, rising inflation and a spike in the sorts of violent crimes that were supposed to recede with prosperity are reviving questions, asked here for decades, about how far Brazil has actually traveled on the difficult path from emerging nation into the ranks of developed countries.
     
    As the Confederations Cup gets going, in six of the dozen cities that will host the World Cup, many Brazilians fear visitors will see anything but a country in full bloom.
     
    “We've been eating baloney and burping caviar,” says Juca Kfouri, a prominent sportswriter and commentator, using a local expression for pretense outpacing reality. “These events are now upon us and this is the same old Brazil.”
     
    Sports fans, the government says, can rest assured.
     
    Naysayers, after all, routinely predict disaster before every major sporting event, be it here or in the world's richest countries. They quibble over everything from Olympic mascots to the design of the World Cup ball.
     
    And the show, invariably, proceeds.
     
    “We have no fears of not being ready,” Aldo Rebelo, Brazil's sports minister, said this week, citing ongoing work to finish remaining World Cup venues by a December deadline and expand crowded airport terminals in time to welcome visitors.
     
    Lost opportunity
     
    Still, critics are outraged by cost overruns, construction delays, a perceived lack of transparency and quickly rising prices for tickets and tourism related to the events.
     
    Work at the MaracanIa, the Rio stadium that for half a century was one of the temples of global soccer, took so long that it will host Confederations Cup games with its exterior and much of the surrounding area still a construction site.
     
    Then there's the questionable practicality of new stadiums in far-flung cities, including the farm hub of Cuiaba and the Amazonian capital of Manaus, that don't even have top-tier soccer teams let alone a place on the concert circuit organizers say will ensure they don't morph into white elephants.
     
    In a recent report, the Federal Accounts Tribunal, an agency that probes public spending, calculated that World Cup costs have already exceeded an initial budget of about 24 billion reais ($11.2 billion) by at least 15 percent.

    Organizers for the Olympics, to be held in and around Rio, haven't even disclosed an official budget, though they concede it will cost far more than the 29 billion reais estimated when Rio bid for the games.
     
    What bothers many the most is that Brazil, despite lofty ambitions early on, gave up on many of the grand designs it proposed for the big events - from a bullet train between Sao Paulo and Rio to rapid transit systems in smaller cities.
     
    Romario, the superstar striker who won the 1994 World Cup with Brazil and is now a legislator in Congress, has taken to the assembly floor to decry squandered time and resources.
     
    “Brazilians will be disappointed to have lost yet another good opportunity to make this country a better place to live,” he predicted recently.
     
    Undermined confidence
     
    The assessment comes as a spate of bad news undermines much of the confidence that Brazil had just a few years ago.
     
    After posting economic growth of 7.5 percent as recently as 2010, the country last year grew by just 0.9 percent. A worsening outlook for 2013, combined with rising inflation and a deterioration of public finances, last week led ratings agency Standard & Poor's to warn it could downgrade Brazil's debt.
     
    The woes caused President Dilma Rousseff, who has enjoyed high approval ratings since she took office in 2011, to slip in two recent polls. Meanwhile, a series of high-profile rapes and assaults in Rio and Sao Paulo, where violent crimes have spiked by more than 10 percent in three years, is prompting citizens to wonder whether security is slipping, too.
     
    Yet Brazil is unlikely to don a dour face for visitors.
     
    The government recently launched an advertising campaign that asked Brazilians to flaunt their diversity, creativity and hospitality and “show what it means to be Brazilian”.
     
    Globo, the dominant TV network, has run a series of spots during a weekly news show illustrating problems that foreigners face when they arrive - from confusing signs at airports to limited foreign language skills among Brazilians to aggressive street vendors who swarm them at popular tourist attractions.
     
    As it lays out the welcome mat, some fear Brazil is slamming the door on itself.
     
    High demand for hotel rooms and airline seats means many locals can't afford to travel during the events. And the need to recoup costly stadium investments means high ticket prices that exclude workaday soccer fans from enjoying the national sport.
     
    After the re-inauguration of the MaracanIa earlier this month, many longtime visitors remarked on the homogenous, mostly white, audience and a staid public compared with the raucous crowds of games past.
     
    TostIao, a legendary forward who is now a columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, after the game lamented “the elitization of soccer across Brazil”.

    You May Like

    Video Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.