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World Cup Is A Microcosm

Of Society’s Ills

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Its About Time The World Begins To Question Whether The World Cup Is Worth All Of The Cost And Work For A Host Country — Especially A Challenging Economic Situation Like Brazil

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

June 17, 2014 — Mega sporting events, both in the United States and internationally, are beginning to show how out of touch with reality many world governments and sports fans are. Sure, sports are generally a huge revenue generator for the localities in which events take place, but, as the costs of these mega events begin to rise, governments and their people must begin to ask themselves a seemingly simple question.

“When does the cost become too great and outweigh the reward?”

We are already seeing these sorts of questions asked by a small percentage of citizens in Brazil, current host of the FIFA World Cup. And, while local and national police forces in the country and largely worked to shut down peaceful protesters and stifle dissent, protesters have managed to grab the attention of international news media.

“The question” is a rumbling every time such large events are held. But with the 2014 FIFA World Cup being called the most expensive World Cup in history at an estimated $11.3 billion dollars, according to Reuters, many wonder whether it makes good economic sense for Brazil, which has been in something of an economic free fall as of late.

Brazil posted a deficit of nearly 3.078 billion reals ($1.356 billion) in February and had its credit downgraded to near junk status, but is still putting on an event that will cost nearly 11 times its deficit. Disparities like this often go ignored when it comes to sporting mega events because of the importance different sports are endowed with within a given country's culture.

But Brazil is different economically than past hosts: South Africa, South Korea and Japan, Germany, France, The United States and Italy. The economic engines of those countries are undisputed and can more easily absorb lavish, discretionary spending that does little besides increase prestige.

Undoubtedly, Brazil is a great choice historically. Futbol is an extremely popular sport in the country, which is why many can choose to ignore the economic inconsistencies of the event. However, because of the extreme wealth disparity in the country, not all citizens are choosing to let the perceived injustice stand.

A study by The World Bank found that significant income disparities exist across multiple regions and demographics in Brazil. Furthermore, the study suggests ways that, through public policy, Brazil can limit this disparity, one of which included improving access and quality of education for low-income peoples. Nowhere did the report suggest that Brazil should spend money hosting a mega event with little chance of recouping extravagant costs.

Even though some Brazilian protesters have stated their love for futbol, they cannot stomach the government shelling out for an event like this when that same government is failing to provide adequate services to its citizens to promote success.

This is not just an international problem, however. The United States faces this question every year with events like the Super Bowl. Because of both cultural and economic differences, we do not see protests like in Brazil, but that does not mean the economic burden placed on municipalities hosting these events is not egregious.

We are living in fragile, post-recession economy, so I understand the lure of the event. In these cities' defense, the estimated economic impact of recent Super Bowls is roughly $500 million dollars.

That lump sum sounds good on the surface, but in an economic and political environment where citizens are forced to look at cuts in public services and education on a yearly basis, how can public officials justify the lump sum payments it takes to secure the Super Bowl in the first place?

The NFL recently made news when the Minneapolis Star-Tribune revealed a version of its "Host City Bid Specifications and Requirements.” The list includes a staggering amount of costs and demands implemented by the NFL, many followed by the statement "at no cost to the NFL."

What this document brings to light is the ways in which local governments are willing to bend over backwards to secure these events. With the average cost of a Super Bowl in the $40-$50 million range, much of the that spread out over the years before the event, how can citizens swallow that expenditure all the while hearing politicians justify budget cuts that affect real services?

To be sure, the situation in Brazil and the United States are different, in terms of both event cost and the plight of local citizens. But both events still highlight an disturbing trend in American sports, which promotes the success of a grandiose event over the well-being of large amounts of people.

If, as the saying goes, sports are microcosm of life, then our priorities sure are out-of-whack.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.

Another Take:
By Stifling Protest, World Cup Disgraces Fans


Why Must The World Cheer Billion-Dollar Sporting Events That Continue To Displace Poor People And Make Life Generally Harder For Those Who Live In Host Countries?  

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

June 17, 2014 — With World Cup having just gotten started, it feels like a good time to take a look at the carnage which billion dollar sporting events like Word Cup and the Olympics reap on their host countries. While the big mugwump, moneyed-interests in the host nations clamor to bring the event to their own shores or borders a whole class of poor people is generally completely put out.

In South Africa in 2010 there were horror stories of poor people being arrested for nothing more than getting to close to the main arena, and now in Brazil there has been anti world cup rioting going on for months, and those movements are being snuffed out by the Brazilian authorities.

Protesters are mad that the Brazilian government has put billions of dollars into an athletic tournament when millions of Brazilian citizens are living in poverty. Furthermore the building of necessary infrastructure such as roads, stadiums, and lodging has displaced hundreds of thousands of Brazil’s working class. By displaced, I mean forced out of their homes by the police.

Even without the displacements events like the World Cup and the Olympics almost always lead to economic devastation following the event. Thousands are put to work pre-event to build the infrastructure, thousands are put to work during the event to maintain it. But after all the fans and participants pack up and go home, ultimately what the country is left with is a bunch of buildings and roadways it doesn’t actually need. Oh yea, and it almost always works out that the hosts spent more than they made back.

In Brazil, the citizenry is not taking the disregard for their well being by their government lightly.

While a militarized police force is working to move them out of their homes, a large group have turned to ‘black bloc’ tactics, and other forms of active defiance. The police are responding with violence by using tear gas and other non lethal means to impede the protesters.

These global sporting events also represent, at least in my eyes, a very scary marriage of major corporations and national governments. All sorts of companies are involved in the construction of an event like World Cup, and it’s more than just FIFA and Nike. Naturally the corporations attempt to advertise as much as possible and turn the event into a way to promote corporatism through “patriotism,” or “nationalism.”

But even more sinister than the packaged nationalism is that these events act as conduits for lobbyists and executives to cozy up to powerful politicians. Who knows how much foreign policy will be decided over a $3,000 dinner tab in Brazil in the next few weeks. There are quite a few money people with much to gain from a little international cooperation.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jmoses@moderntimesmagazine.com.

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