What a month it was!
From Thursday June 12 to Sunday July 13, the eyes of people from over 200 countries – whether at a stadium, televised or otherwise – were duly fixed on what transpired in Brazil, our giant neighbour to the south, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The action was riveting. There were cheers and tears. The atmosphere was generally festive. Appropriately, the most popular song in the twelve ultra-modern playing facilities was American Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” – everyone associated with the event seemed to be. There was no terrorist activity reported. And to crown it, there has been little or no dispute that the most consistent and impressive of the 32 teams, Germany, was deserving of its fourth success at that level.
That the host country did not succeed in its sixth conquest at the world’s most prestigious tournament understandably became a major talking point, particularly given the fact that it was off the field that any significant grief was supposed to be felt. But in the grand scheme of things, considering that an even greater task (the Olympics) faces the country in two years’ time, this effort was outstanding.
Two journalists, writing for Bloomberg, aptly summed it up as follows:
“A month ago, everyone from soccer analysts to economists said Brazil would win the World Cup title while the month-long tournament would be marred by unfinished stadiums, violence and horrific traffic. How things change.
Fans booed Brazil’s soccer team during the nation’s biggest-ever loss, a 7-1 pummeling by Germany last week which ended hopes of winning a record sixth championship. In the wake of the team’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the consolation game, there have been calls from fans in the streets to President Dilma Rousseff to rebuild the national team.
Yet Brazil’s unprecedented defeats contrast with the organizational success of the world’s most-watched sports event, which went off without major hitches following months of public criticism about partially-finished stadiums, labour strikes and threats of mass protests. The results may bode well for the country’s ability to pull off a successful 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.”
President Rousseff at a news conference assessing the event described it as “one of the world’s most beautiful cups”.
“Our country can consider itself victorious regarding the organisation of this World Cup. I am sure that, without a doubt, it was one of the most beautiful. We had the Cup of Cups.”
Another journalist reminded us that one of the enduring storylines during the buildup to the event was all the money the government was spending to subsidize a sporting event while significant portions of the population were living in poverty. The price tag ended up at approximately US$15 billion.
On her Facebook page Monday, citing data from the Tourism Ministry and economics research institute Fipe, President Rousseff related that the tournament had injected US$13.5 billion into Brazil’s economy and created 710,000 permanent jobs. More detailed analysis will of course be forthcoming, but the early signs are encouraging.
Anyone who had been paying keen attention during the daily telecasts would have noticed that foreign supporters flocked to Brazil. According to the country’s Tourism Minister, there were more than a million.
It was also reported that a poll of visitors at airports in the 12 host cities and at 10 land borders had shown that 95 per cent of visitors planned to return one day.
More than three million locals traversed the country during the Cup, which mobilized more than 20,000 media personnel, and according to Brazil’s civil aviation ministry, 16.7 million people took flights during the event, with a single day record of 572,000.
Pertinent to all the observations about Brazil’s expenditure is that Russia is reportedly poised to fork out even more for the 2018 edition: US$20 billion, which would make it the most expensive football tournament in history.
When Russia first won the right to host, the costs were estimated to be about half of that. Prior to Brazil, the most expensive World Cup in history was the $6 billion that Germany spent in 2006. And just to put everything in sobering perspective, Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, is promising to spend US$200 billion for the 2022 event!
So, given all that is required to successfully host a tournament of this magnitude, we need no convincing that Brazil has done a magnificent job, in more than trying circumstances, and for this we proudly exclaim, “Well done, neighbour!”
What a month it was!