Brazil 2014 blame game

Posted by Tim Vickery

"If the protests happen again," said FIFA president Sepp Blatter, "we will have to ask ourselves if we took the wrong decision in giving Brazil the right to stage the World Cup."

His words would not appear to contain any threat, implied or otherwise, that the venue for the 2014 World Cup might suffer a late alteration. Rather, this would seem to be a public relations exercise, and an attempt to separate two distinct areas of protest.

- World Cup spending to be investigated

The mass demonstrations that rocked Brazil last month began relatively small and specific - on the issue of public transport in Sao Paulo. With remarkable speed it spread around the country, turning into a generalised grievance about the relationship between the Brazilian State and its citizens. And with president Dilma Rousseff rushed into offering concessions, the movement increasingly focused on at times furious protests about government spending on the 2014 World Cup.

In other areas Rousseff had negotiating room - more resources for public transport, health and education, and proposals for a reform process aimed at stiffer punishments for corrupt politicians. But on the 2014 World Cup she had little to offer. The mistakes have been made and the money has been spent. It has been obvious for some time that the 2014 World Cup was going to cost Brazilian society more than it should, and give back less.

The bungling of the 2014 World Cup is a domestic story, one of twisted priorities and poor and arrogant administration. The fact that Brazil was awarded the World Cup unopposed opened up the door to a host of local defects. There was a lack of debate, society blatantly misled with the claim that all money spent on stadiums would be private, leaving public resources for infra-structure projects.

There was the push to have as many host cities as possible, with no one at home taking responsibility for naming them. Being so slow out of the blocks inevitably meant that costs would rise, and the list of infra-structure projects would be reduced. When it comes to the way they are ruled, the Brazilian population has a great deal to protest about.

The fact that the stadiums turned out to be so impressive only made matters worse. Who wants first world stadiums and third world public services? And so a phrase caught on in the hand-made placards of the protestors - 'FIFA standard'. If we can have FIFA standard stadiums, they asked, why can't we have a FIFA standard country?

Protesters on the streets of Belo Horizonte
GettyImagesProtesters on the streets of Brazil

And so FIFA increasingly came into the firing line - and the relationship between FIFA and the World Cup host nation came under the microscope as never before. Great player turned politician Romario accused FIFA of being 'the real president of Brazil' and of setting up a state within a state. More people started paying attention to the way that the World Cup makes money for FIFA - from the sale of TV rights - while costing the host nation a fortune. In the developing world, where there are so many competing claims on the public purse, this is always likely to be controversial.

For the last few weeks, Sepp Blatter has been attempting to separate these two areas of protest. He has been anxious to remind people that Brazil chose to stage the tournament. "We never say to anyone, 'you have to organise the World Cup'," he told the Brazilian press at the end of June. "Countries want to stage it, and there is a list of requirements, demands and basic conditions that they have to follow...

"We never asked to build stadiums as if they were works of art. We could have used eight stadiums [12 will stage matches in 2014]." And, to cap it off, he said that he could not "understand how, between 2007 and 2013, nothing more has been done in the area of infra-structure."

That is the background to his comments on Wednesday that "FIFA has nothing to learn from the protests - it is the Brazilian politicians who have to learn". The blame game is up and running and Blatter is playing pass the parcel - because he can hear it ticking.

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