International sporting events are an excellent opportunity for sports fans and citizens to come together and engage in some healthy competition. Hosting such an event can be a great honour to a country — not to mention all the attention from tourism and the media.
However, while only eight stadiums were required for the 2014 World Cup, host country Brazil took initiative and built 12. It seems as though hosting national sporting events has turned into a competition for who can build the most stuff and essentially show off the most.
The FIFA’s 20-page stadium manual published claims that new arenas “provide many benefits for the local community” and additionally enhance community pride. While FIFA does not actually require World Cup host countries to build stadiums, it does provide guidelines on how exactly they should be constructed. Traditionally new stadiums are built in host countries regardless of cost.
The current situation in Brazil has demonstrated that hosting can actually be damaging to a country in multiple ways. Controversy has erupted over the money that Brazil’s government has put into the World Cup, while millions of its citizens lack basic services. According to CNBC, Brazil’s government has spent over $11 billion, making 2014 the most expensive World Cup to date.
The past few years have seen Brazilian citizens outraged at the government’s handling of the World Cup. Choices made have affected citizens in ways that are both inconsiderate and inconvenient. The building of brand-new World Cup facilities has raised rent in working class neighbourhoods, forced people out of their homes and according to activists, approximately 250,000 people faced eviction in order to accommodate tournament preparations and construction.
Additionally, rushed construction projects resulted in nine work-related deaths and corruption has caused chaos on the streets of many of Brazil’s major cities. City workers striking and threatening to strike was not uncommon leading up to the World Cup. Many of the stadiums, airports and transportation systems were not completed in time for the games either.
This should not be a national sports versus social justice argument, but unfortunately the World Cup has shed light on that very feud. Is all of this worth it to host a sporting event or to gain bragging rights for the most stadiums built?
An article in the New York Times tells the story of Maria Ivanilde Oliveira, a woman living in her house, that is falling apart, across the highway from the $450 million Arena das Dunas in Natal. Oliveira sells ice out of her home for a living but the construction on the highway prevented her ice deliveries for months. With little money and no work, Oliveira listened to the sounds of fans and the national anthem from her home as the games took place in the expensive arena.
When there are houses crumbling and poverty looming right across from a newly-built stadium, it’s hard not to question the usage of the money. How is a massive stadium going to benefit those who are living in poverty around it?
These social problems were pre-existing; the World Cup is not the only reason for them. The fault lies in the corrupt politicians and the way that they have neglected their citizens’ needs over time. However, the World Cup has added to these social problems and the money could have been used on more beneficial causes.
It is natural that hosting countries desire to present themselves as modern, fully-developed and wealthy. However, attempting to do so only results in more embarrassment than impressed spectators. Funding social projects and providing services for citizens are much more favorable marks of modernity than large sporting structures.
This is not the first example of this; 2014 saw some comparable failure at the Sochi Olympic games where many buildings were left half-constructed. And located on the other side of the mountains from Sochi is North Caucasus — one of the poorest and most violent regions in Russia.
Sporting events are no stranger to controversy and often do result in displaced populations. It’s unfortunate that such an enjoyable event also has such a massive downside. If governments also considered their citizens — especially those citizens who need the most care — then perhaps national sporting events could be more positive for everyone.
Naomi Zurevinski / Opinions Editor
Photo: Anderson Vaz / Flikr