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Global Jun 11, 2014

Social unrest surrounding World Cup in Brazil remains major issue heading into opening games

With the World Cup being hosted by Brazil, the most nation with the most successful on-field history in the competition, it should be a time for celebration. The tournament brings out the world’s best players in a month-long tournament and a chance for the Brazilians to win a sixth World Cup, this time on home soil.

While the 2014 edition will be known for the play on the pitch and the nation that eventually lifts the trophy, it may very well be equally known for the social unrest.

While the economy in the nation continues to struggle, the government has spent billions of dollars on completing stadiums. However, some of these stadiums could very well become White Elephants and huge drains to a crumbling economic infrastructure.

HBO’s “Real Sports” looked at the phenomenon of building stadiums and them subsequently sitting untouched after the event. For the Olympics in 2004, Greece built several permanent stadiums that are unused, in poor condition and the Olympic games has ultimately left a sour taste in the country’s collective mouth.

In particular, one stadium in Brazil, with the location and expense highlights the issue many Brazilians have with the World Cup. The stadium in Manaus is built in a jungle, cost $270 million dollars and building materials were brought in by boat on the Amazon River. It will only be used for four games and there is no professional team in Manaus that will be able to fill that type of stadium after the World Cup.

John Oliver, on “Last Week Tonight”, took FIFA to task for the handling of the Brazil tournament and other dealings. The full 13-minute video can be watched below (Note: There is some explicit language).

In an NPR segment, Frank Deford pointed to David Zirin‘s book “Brazil’s Dance With The Devil” to note that FIFA President Sepp Blatter strong-armed Brazil into building stadiums that were “FIFA quality.” Brazil has built new or rehabilitated a dozen stadiums.

Instead of building luxurious stadiums and then further spending for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the country would have preferred hospitals or schools. In the favela’s or slums in Brazil, things only continue to get worse.

Riots have continually taken place in protest of Brazil holding the World Cup and the expenses it has used. Also the displacement of Brazil’s poor from certain communities and cutting of public spending.

A transit strike also threatens to negatively impact the opening of the World Cup. While the strike is due to the firing of 42 workers and not related to the riots, it would certainly dampen the mood of the first game as well as bring transportation to a stand-still.

With FIFA’s presence and the World Cup being held, things don’t look to be getting better any time soon for the most-decorated soccer nation. The money made from the tournament goes back to FIFA and not Brazil, giving little benefit to hosting the event in the first place.

On the pitches in Brazil, there will be a month-long showcase of the beautiful game. Off the pitch, the ugly side will continue to lurk throughout the World Cup and looks to have Brazil in a bind for years to come.

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