With just days to go before the World Cup football tournament kicks off in Brazil, a fierce debate continues to rage whether the struggling nation should have taken upon itself the massive task of hosting the global sporting event.
The South American country last hosted the World Cup in 1950, when it was mired in a host of social and economic problems. Sixty-four years on, has anything really changed in Brazil to warrant a coming-out party?
The answer, unfortunately, is no, say most independent observers. While Brazilians are no doubt soccer-mad and will enjoy the games thoroughly now that they are here, they are really in no position to afford the multibillion dollar extravaganza.
The need of the hour for the developing society is improved spending on education, healthcare and public services, rather than splurging on a vanity sporting event.
Brazil should give up promoting itself as a soccer kingdom and re-position the nation as a role model for the developing world by addressing problems such as the huge wealth gap, drug and crime menace and poor public services, experts say.
As the economy is slowing down, Brazilians are complaining about the massive investment on the World Cup. According to the Brazil’s audit department, the country has invested US$11.7 billion for the World Cup this year, doubled the budget envisaged in 2007, Ming Pao Daily reported Monday.
This has fueled suspicions that officials have been filling their pockets with public funds. Construction work on 12 auditoriums is behind schedule, so are the planned public transportation projects such as rail and other infrastructure. The government had earlier cut the budget for social welfare spending, including education and medical services, in order to invest on World Cup facilities.
The country has seen widespread protests since June last year over the World Cup spending. Federal prosecutors’ office in the state of Goias last month asked the government to stop airing advertisements for the World Cup. It criticized the expenditure on stadia construction, noting that the budget was 100 times more than that on education and health.
Romário de Souza Fari, councilor in the state of Rio de Janeiro and former Brazilian footballer, said officials are using the World Cup to misuse public funds. He reiterated that public services can be improved even if a small part of the World Cup budget was diverted.
Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira, former footballer, said: “I was poor and experienced the lack of good education and medical services… Brazil doesn’t need a World Cup”, the Ming Pao report noted.
Simon Chadwick, a British athletic business strategy expert, said Brazil is already the seventh largest economy in the world and that there were 36 Brazilian companies on the Forbes top 2,000 global corporations.
But soccer kingdom promotion will not help outsiders learn about the real situation in the country, such as its achievements in bio-chemical studies, he said, adding that Brazil should re-position itself and get rid of the soccer crown.
Separately, the Hong Kong Economic Times noted that some emerging economies are spending a lot of money to show off their power. However, they lack the experience to manage and host mega sports events. Hence, sporting event organizers should focus on the true situation and not be swayed by promises.
The comments came as Qatar is also facing mounting scrutiny following allegations of corruption surrounding its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, and charges of improper treatment of construction workers. Some activists have alleged that hundreds of foreign workers in Qatar have died due to overwork.
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