Foreign Policy Blogs

Brazil’s World Cup and the True Voice of the BRICS

Brazil street artist Paulo Ito taps into country’s anger with mural of starving child eating a football

It appears that when the world was praising the BRICS nations a few years ago, that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were seen as the countries that would dominate the world economy in the future, and that any opportunity to link a company or organization to these mega-economies would pay off without any consequences. The International Olympic Committee and other organizations sought to link themselves to these new economic giants, and without a great deal of scrutiny, the games began. China’s Olympics in 2008 resulted in many Chinese citizens losing their homes without compensation for the greater good of China. A group of rights protestors followed the route of the Olympic flame, protesting for human rights in China, but the games went on with little acknowledgement of the rights issues or how the Olympics contributed to ignoring those in China who lost their homes for the sake of sport. India’s Commonwealth Games had major infrastructure issues and not much was said about it until after the games had commenced and athletes found themselves in less than desirable conditions. The World Cup in South Africa went relatively well, but then again it is a sport that is well known and liked, thus it is hard to have issues with the World Cup in general, right?

The same attitude that allowed rights violations to take a back seat to the 2008 games in China led to the latest Olympics in Russia — an Olympic games that received a tremendous amount of negative attention, especially for its infrastructure issues. While there were many issues during the games, it seemed that praise was only given on the last day during the closing ceremonies, even though the games went off relatively well. When the IOC grants these games to countries that are deemed “developing economies,” they tend to overlook the reality of their political situations and the rights of their people. When Russia placed their games close to a region where many terror attacks had taken place, there was little initial concern from the Olympic Committee for the cost of safety. While the games were safe, they were also the most expensive in history in a country that has serious economic issues. The tremendous cost of security was never vetted by the Committee in Geneva, but the costs did not matter to them. Having the games in Sochi cost millions of dollars in security costs in a country where public funds are needed to keep people out of poverty.

When countries like Russia and Brazil cannot meet their deadlines, the Olympic Committee tends to take a passive-aggressive approach from Geneva against countries where they should have known might have those issues, but had chosen to ignore in order to repeat 2008 over and over again. What was ignored in China, and was so in Russia, and now in Brazil is that those countries are not simply BRICS and sources for investment, they are places with diverse populations and political interests and should not be looked down upon from a place like Geneva. When the host for the Olympic Committee is a country that protects the funds from corrupt politicians from Latin America and Russian Oligarchs, it is absurd that they would ignore the political reality and rights of the citizens of those countries in order to have good sporting events. When it was made known that the preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were not completed, and that the venues for the next Olympics in Brazil had problems in keeping on schedule, the Olympic Committee took to making arrogant comments on the failure of Brazil as one of the most poorly planned games, leading to the impression that they might just repeat the games in London.

The process of satisfying the Olympic Committee in Geneva and the current state of the government in Brazil lead to millions of dollars being siphoned out of the Brazilian economic plan, funds that should have been used to improve useful infrastructure and help alleviate poverty were sunk into the World Cup and into the Olympic games. Although protestors in China were ignored and in Russia were kept at the sidelines, the Brazilian middle class that see no improvements in their daily lives or investment in their communities have been protesting government waste on games. Brazil could easily claim to be the premier football nation, but they nevertheless are challenging their leaders and the Olympic Committee as well for placing the games above the people. At the same time, criticism from Geneva adds pressure to spend more time and energy on the games, ignoring the rights of average Brazilians. With the location of the games plucked from the pages of investors, it is no surprise that crossing off BRICS nations with sporting events had no consideration for local democracy. Brazilians are finally becoming the voice that those in the other BRICS nations did not have. Brazilians are proving their country is not simply a place to invest money, but that it is a growing democracy and their people will make sure their government and Geneva know that they come before their politicians and games.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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