A World Cup the Brazilian way

Ana Toledo - Jun 05 2014

The country of football has worked hard to get everything ready for this major sporting event and for good and ill, this has exposed historical characteristics and social tensions

By Wagner de Alcântara Aragão

The final touches are being made to stadiums, infrastructure and logistics required to successfully host the 32 delegations on Brazilian soil. Everything from the pitches, hotels, transportation systems and local police forces must be sufficiently prepared for 12 June, when Brazil and Croatia kick off the tournament in in São Paulo. Of course, it is likely that some problems are subject to occur, but these are inevitable with any major event of this scale and breadth.

In 2007, when FIFA announced Brazil as the host country of the 2014 World Cup, many doubted the ability of the country to reach the so-called ‘FIFA standard’. For the sceptics, the idea of Brazil being home to well equipped arenas, quality hotels to accommodate the most discerning of guests and modern, efficient airports was impossible.

To some extent they have been proved wrong. The 12 host cities now have new stadiums that are true monuments to the beautiful game.  The country’s hospitality industry has also upped its game. International chains have expanded while traditional ones have improved their facilities.

Despited the huge wave of protest that took to the streets, last year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil was near perfect. Stadiums were fully occupied with tickets selling out and there were no scenes of fights between fans. At least, nothing that has caused major damage.


For anyone who has been living in Brazil over these past seven years, it’s easy to recall the highs and lows in the preparations for the event.  With frequent delays, improvisations, last minute changes and the failure to complete some major projects. Historically and culturally, this has been the Brazilian way of doing things and in this respect, we have wasted a great opportunity to prove to the world and especially ourselves that the opposite is possible, it was just a matter of delivering everything to the schedule.

Corinthians Arena, the stadium hosting the opening ceremony and game (read more on pages 12 and 13), suffered from delays throughout its construction and even at the time of going to press, some details over it’s safety remain unconfirmed. The road improvements in the outlying area of the arena are also incomplete.

Even in Curitiba, city with a world-renowned reputation for exemplary planning and organisation, failed to live up to expectations. The city’s new Arena da Baixada, which will host four matches, still requires work to complete the external facade. Delays incurred at the start of this year have affected the schedule, which have even threatened to see the city dropped as a host city, although there have been assurances that it will be ready for its first game on 16 June.

The original request from FIFA was for that all stadiums should be completed six months in advance of the start of the competition. This target was repeatedly missed, with Pantanal and Dunas Arenas, also still undergoing adjustments. Others including the National Stadium in Brasília and Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre are having final interventions made to their external area.

These delays, have been the main contributing factor for the escalating required to deliver the arenas. In 2010 the relevant parties signed the World Cup Responsibility document that listed the priority investments for the event the predicted spending of R$ 5.38 billion for stadiums. Four years later, the real cost, which is still not completely finalised, is just over R$ 8 billion – an increase of 48%.

The Sports Ministry, has argued that the original estimates were flawed because the initial values ​​were only an estimate without a proper foundation, rather than a completed final budget.

Of even greater concern than delays have been the fatal accidents on stadium construction sites. Eight workers have died while working on World Cup arenas: three in São Paulo, three in Manaus, one in Brasilia and another one in Cuiabá.


These delays and accelerating budget reviews certainly contributed to the overall change in mood towards the World Cup in Brazil. While back in 2007 the announcement of the country as hosts was reason to celebrate, last year the tide turned with the protests of June, showing another face of Brazil.

For the most part, these protests have been incited by Brazil’s economic elite, who are always willing to create instability and undermine any alternative that it sees as a threat to its privileges, even if it is for the benefit of most marginalised. The majority of the country’s most economically affluent population are using the World Cup as another means of attacking the Worker’s Party government, which it has long opposed for several reasons.

Let me explain: since last year, the focus changed to only report on the amount of money being spent. This outlook was created and perpetuated mainly by the oligopoly of Brazil’s media – which has been the main reason for historic ills of Brazilian society. The political-economic groups opposed to the government managed to imbue a sense of public opinion that the coming of the World Cup was an evil to Brazil. They polarised the event, claiming that all the resources focussed on hosting the World Cup would be drawn from health, education, public safety, as if the equation was simple.

With public opinion poisoned against it, the World Cup is about to start with the far less excitement for the event than seven years ago. As the date of the opening game gets closer, the yellow-green is slowly taking over the streets but the unparalleled euphoria that was wished for now looks unlikely to be realised.


The image of the World Cup in Brazil appears to be at its worst in the virtual world of the media and social networks than the real world of the streets. Recent viral demonstrations under the banner of “There Will Not Be a World Cup” have won fans.

It is undeniable that in recent weeks a series of strikes (mainly in transport sector) and social mobilisations (mostly of homeless people) have caused problems across the country make it seem that there is great disquiet amongst citizens. In fact, these movements have taken advantage of the visibility generated by the World Cup, in order to raise the profile of long standing issues in Brazil, rather than chanting with the choir of groups opposed to the Cup.

With anticipation growing, there is no doubt in regard to eh importance of the tournament to the country. These demonstrations will not deface one of Brazil’s feature: its warmth. This relates not only the organisation and preparation of major events, but also to the hospitality, and individual Brazilians.

The government is already calling the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil the “World Cup of World Cups”.  Let’s see if that will be true of if the tide will turn again.

‘Overall, everything was very good’


According to Aldo Rebelo, Brazil’s Minister of Sport, there is no bad feeling towards the World Cup, and despite the problems, preparations have been successful. With just days to go before the big event, Brasil Observer spoke to Rebelo about the realisation and organisation of the World Cup in Brazil.

Could the World Cup in Brazil have been better organised?

In any activity, there is no single perfect result. Because of the size and importance of a World Cup event, the problems are numerous. But those involved in the work and organisation in overcoming obstacles and we will make this the ‘World Cup of World Cups’. The deadline for completion of some works could have been better adhered to but overall, everything was very good.

The bad feelings towards the event have grown over the last year. Do you think there will be protests during the World Cup?

There is no bad feeling against the World Cup. What has happened is that some people who are unhappy with the organisation of the tournament are demonstrating and demanding for improvements in public services. They are using the visibility that any reference to the World Cup gains in order to express their opinions, unfortunately, sometimes violently and illegally. Once the ball is rolling, we will find ourselves in the party atmosphere that football creates in Brazil every week.

Besides the stadiums, what will be the legacy of the event?

Big sports events act as motivators for the participation of young people who dream to be athletes. In Brazil it this is already very strong with football. This sport will be further strengthened after the World Cup as our stadiums will be better able to receive international competitions. Greater numbers of the public will be able to go and see games. The government is also using the realisation of the World Cup and Olympics as an opportunity to improve our sports infrastructure. We are building five thousand sports courts and renovating another five thousand in public schools across the country. Local governments, will build 285 sport initiation centres in the underserved areas of numerous cities and we are improving the sports facilities of universities with new athletic fields and swimming pools.


According to the federal government, the spending on stadiums and investments in transportation will reach about R$25 billion. Of this total, R$8 billion is federal funding (through the National Bank for Economic and Social Development) for the renovation, expansion or construction of 12 arenas in each of the host cities. The remaining R$17 billion has been spent on public transport and urban mobility projects in the host cities.


Research made ​​at the request of the Ministry of Tourism made predictions about the impact the event would have on the Brazilian economy. They reported that R$30 billion will be added to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, based upon the tourist sponging and as a result of investments.


The Brazilian government argues that the arenas are more than football stadiums and will become spaces used for various other events. In addition, transportation and urban mobility infrastructure projects also become part of the event’s permanent legacy.


Amid questions about priorities for public investment, the Brazilian government has recently made the following comparison: since 2010, when they started the works for the World Cup, the federal government spent R$825 billion in education and health. This amount is therefore 100 times more than the money they provided to finance the construction of arenas (R$8 billion). The government also argues that the BNDES funding was loan based and that it must be repaid by the companies and consortia responsible for the arenas.