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 Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”