There has been a lot of noise (letigitmate) coming out of Brazil the past few weeks regarding the monetary cost and even perceptual cost of hosting major sporting events while social services are being largely ignored. And there is something poetic about brazilians placing livelihood and social stability above the game which they have come to dominate the world in.
When you consider some past expenditures and failures of hosting the olympics there is reason to doubt whether there is a benefit at all to hosting. Greece 2004 is of course one of the best examples having spent 18 Billion in the construction of 22 facilities for the olympic games. 21 of those facilities are currently unused, unkept, and under constant surveilance to deter squatting and vandalism. They were also left with a 6.1% deficit following the Oympics, over twice what is allowed under EU rules. And what they are left with are massive and empty concrete reminders of where their taxes helped built. Brazil is not Greece, but it's also not London or Barcelona. And with economic uncertainty, past expenditures upwards of 10 billion in host nations, there is reasonable concern.
Irresponsible spending is precisely what Brazilians are trying to avoid. True, they're an emerging economy, and one that has yet to prove staying power. It's a wonderful country, and any of friends from business school would decribe it as such, but they are also not shy about the real issues that continue to harm the country. Crime is still high as well as income inequality and poverty, and social services (like modern infrstructure) are limited to the elite in many parts of the country with other areas largely ignored.
Social welfare is such a dirty phrase in the states. We've somehow kept a narrative that there is should be as little as possible government funded social programs because they can lead to complete welfare states. And there is a clear fallacy in that manner of thinking, that swaying one way or other can lead to th extreme end of the spectrum. When american move to european countries (that are often scrutinized in US for their social spending) they are often surprised at how stable they appear, the low crime rates, the relatively calm mannner of life. But the reality is, social services do good, and planned and implemented correctly can bring social stability and satisfaction from the perceived government role as caretakers that it provides for its citizens.
Like social welfare, there are other narratives as well that aren't completely true either; "it's an even playing field," "people who succeed do it on their own," etc... while in many cases it may be the case, the majority of Americans have received some governmental support or have been aided by family wealth, neither of which suggests that the playing field is even. Which leads me to this; in countries where its citizens can clearly benefit from social programs to mitigate the risk of a widening gap in social classes, is there room for irresponsible social expenditures that only benefit a very small segment of the population, and for the sake of argument, a larger segment of foreignors entering the country for sporting events? When you take a peoples resources and use them for the benefit of others there will undoubtebly be an opposition built up form within. And that's what Brazil is seeing with millions taking to the streets in protest over ignoring livelihood and health of a nation that is still facing perceptual issues of not just safety but social responsibility.
For Brazil there are many issues at hand, many interests as well (environemental, social, political), and some of which I think will remain sore points through the both the world cup in 2014and olympic games in 2016. For once, it's about more than just a game.
- arturo gutierrez