Foreign Policy Blogs

What South Africa 2010 means for Brazil 2014

The biggest upset of this World Cup might not have been champion Spain’s opening defeat to Switzerland. For many the tournament’s main shocker was that South Africa didn’t plunge into a cesspool of crime and chaos, an outcome feared by many pundits who doubted the country’s ability to hold an event of such magnitude.

One wonders, though, if the relatively smooth 2010 World Cup will spare Brazil from similar angst as it prepares to host the 2014 tournament. After all, Brazil is plagued by many of the same social problems that contributed to the climate of fear surrounding this summer’s games. Like South Africa, Brazil suffers from its image as a hotbed of urban crime, and each country has recently been tagged with the dubious honor of being the world’s most unequal nation.

What does this mean for Brazil? For one, even greater scrutiny of its World Cup preparations than was experienced by South Africa. In June Time reported that Brazil had been criticized by FIFA for falling behind deadlines for planned renovations. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s General Secretary, told reporters that “I got a report on the status quo of the Brazilian stadiums. It is amazing how Brazil is already late. I have to say it is not very nice.” Brazil’s top soccer official, Ricardo Teixeira, addressed the criticism last week by stating that “there are no problems.” Still, Teixeira conceded that São Paulo might not host any games due to issues with planned upgrades to the city’s Morumbi Stadium.

One shameful lesson of this World Cup concerns South Africa’s treatment of its poor, who were evicted in the thousands to make way for stadiums and other facilities built for the tournament. However, according to a recent piece in GlobalPost, the Brazilian government has similar plans for Rio’s poor communities ahead of the 2016 Olympics.  More than any delays in construction or unfulfilled promises to FIFA, it is the fate of the millions of ordinary Brazilians that will define the 2014 World Cup.