Brazil and the FIFA World Cup
By Walter Hsu (7/16/13)
Amidst the glory and pride associated with the FIFA World Cup lurks an ugly side. While enormous stadiums and modernization projects are being constructed across Brazil, government officials cling to “trickle-down” economics to justify the taxpayer dollars spent on the event. Do these construction projects create jobs? Yes, there are thousands of Brazilian workers welding beams and laying down concrete, but these jobs are not long-term options. The rapid expansion’s aftermath for international sporting events in China resembles the famous Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea: vast, empty spaces with an almost eerie vibe. The fourteen new stadiums in Brazil will do nothing for citizens after the confetti is dropped and fans head home. A janitorial staff will work a few hours a week to keep the crows from nesting in the rafters, but the Brazilian economy’s nature does not lend itself to the rock concerts or conventions that rationalize arenas’ construction in the U.S.
World Cup proponents assure the media that job creation and essential infrastructure projects pay off in the long run, but I am skeptical. South Africa’s Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, has said that the last World Cup greatly improved the South African economy by creating over 400,000 jobs. In addition, the construction of roads, airports, retail stations and hotels brought the nation into the 21st century. While this sounds wonderful on paper, let’s take a closer look at how these outcomes will play out over the next 10 years. The jobs created were largely construction jobs. Once the construction is done, the jobs dry up. Retail stores hired thousands of employees, but the end of the games marks the end of the tourist influx. With no tourists to fill the malls, these service sector jobs disappear. Hotels follow a similar logic. With no major events being held in South Africa now, these hotels remain unbooked and empty. Roads and airports serve their purpose, but they don’t put food on the table, educate children or improve the quality of life for South Africans.
It is an honor and a privilege to host the World Cup, but that privilege is one associated with wealth. Brazilian protesters take to the streets to demand government projects that bring locals out of poverty. Funding for schools, high-speed Internet and hospitals should be at the top of the priority list. The Brazilian people have been stabbed in the back by their government in order for corporations to make a quick buck and move on to the next victim. The original bid for the World Cup stated that no public funding would be necessary. What we are seeing now is approximately 90% of the funding coming from taxpayer dollars. If the Brazilian government wants to see their games succeed, they better be prepared to meet the needs of their people or the backlash will scar the face of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.