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article imageOp-Ed: 'Cautionary tale' emerging out of Brazil's quest for recognition

By Karen Graham     Nov 27, 2013 in Sports
Two years ago, Brazil set its eyes on the 2014 World Cup games and the 2016 Olympics, hoping to claim new status on the world's stage. Visions of new-found economic strength and the respect of their neighbors have proven instead to be a nightmare.
It could be described as biting off more than one can chew, but at the time, it was a great idea. Brazil's entry into the world of "international hosting" to the World Cup games in 2014 sounded like icing on the cake when added to being host to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
After three failed attempts, Brazil finally emerged the victor when on October 2, 2009, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) choose Rio de Janiero to host the "Games of the XXXI Olympiad." As an added feather in their cap, The 2016 Summer Olympics would be the first time a South American city would play host to the event.
As the host for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, this will be Brazil's second time as host country, winning the honor on Oct. 30. 2007. Hosting the international men's football tournament is another great honor for Brazil, and combined with the Olympic games, a logistical nightmare that was overlooked in all the excitement of preliminary planning.
Initially, it was thought that investors would jump on board what was certain to be an economic train leading to the bank. With an economy over-extended, and an infrastructure crumbling from within, the investments were a priority, but they may have come too late in many cases. And based on reports coming out of the country, there are other problems even more pressing.
Broken promises seem to be the norm when promoting a city or country as the best host for an international event. We had seen it happen before when politicians, lacking managerial skills and the clout needed to get things done, promise the sky, and then when the event is over disappear, leaving the resulting mess for others to clean up.
With FIFA officials warning there would be "no compromise" in getting the stadiums finished in time for the World Cup games, Brazil is still behind schedule with a number of unfinished stadiums, including one that was the focus of a crane accident today, reportedly killing two people. Please see Digital Journal story, Brazil World Cup stadium crane collapse kills two.
Besides the many unfinished venues, an even bigger problem is the infrastructure, highways, roads, and a metro system that has proved to be totally inadequate for the citizens using them now. While the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) had estimated that 70 billion Euros would be invested in infrastructure, it has come too late to be of any help by the time the World Cup games arrive.
So officials have opted to fix the problem by doing things piece-meal, adding bus lanes to the stadiums, and closing schools and government offices to cut down on traffic on days the games are played. While these short-term solutions may work for a time, they still don't serve as a long-term fix to a problem that has needed fixing for a long time.
But 4 million people present the biggest problem of all. For the people living in the "favelas," or slums of Rio de Janiero and other cities housing new sports venues, the games mean nothing less than the loss of their homes. Evictions have been rampant, and people have literally been left sitting on the bulldozed rubble of what hours earlier had been a place they called home.
Of course we have seen news, and pretty pictures of brightly-painted slum buildings dressed up as city art, showing the world that Brazil does have the best interests of all its citizens in mind. What we don't see are the millions who have taken to the streets in protest of the government's disregard for their plight. This is the shame Brazil must bear, long past the end of the games.
If ever a cautionary tale could be told, it may be that looking at Brazil's' attempt to gain the world stage without carefully studying all the pitfalls might fit the definition. But so would the Sochi Winter Olympics fit the definition quite nicely. Actually, it still goes back to "biting off more than you can chew," doesn't it?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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