Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup are going to be a source of stories in the years to come. It’s not just that billions will be spent on stadiums and infrastructure (or not), it’s the overall story of how Brazil will change.
Brazil’s president in the 1950s Juscelino Kubitschek was famous for his massive modernisation program that was dubbed 50 years in 5.
What is happening now has the potential to transform Brazil almost as quickly.
But as usual, the politicians and administrators are more worried about their own popularity/egos/10 percent (delete as applicable) than actually transforming cities and providing citizens with the arenas, transport and infrastructure their tax reais are paying for.
More than 30 months have passed since Brazil was the unanimous choice to host the 2014 tournament but it has done next to nothing to prepare. Nary a foundation has been dug or a brick laid.
“I got a report on the status quo of the Brazilian stadiums,” FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke said in widely reported comments earlier this month. “I have to say it is not very nice. It is amazing how Brazil is already late. And I am not just talking about Morumbi or Maracana stadiums.”
I wrote an article for Monocle yesterday that talks about the particular issues facing Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium, the proposed site for the prestigious opening match of the competition. (The opening match always features the host nation.)
Experts believe the delays are not unintentional. If clubs or public authorities wait until the last minute, the federal government will be forced to step in with funds to save the nation’s blushes. That way everyone gets a new stadium and the public pays for it.
Fernando Araujo, author of this fine blog on Brazil’s World Cup stadiums, summed it up for me:
“The cold hard numbers indicate that in the medium and long terms the Morumbi’s receipts are going to fall. When it was constructed it was the city’s main stadium. All the big games were played there. That is no longer the case. Corinthians stopped playing there for many reasons, including political reason, so São Paulo’s income has dropped drastically. It has shows but you can only have 5 or 6 shows a year at most. Palmeiras will build a stadium with private money and they are going to factor in shows and so that market for shows is going to shrink. If SP does 5 or 6 shows a year now then they’ll be doing 2 or 3 in years to come because that market will be divided.
“São Paulo know this but they didn’t want to go to the BNDES and ask for the government financing because they know they will adversely affect the club’s finances for many years to come. Even though the loan is at a low rate of interest it is to be paid over 12 years to pay and they’ll be committing themselves for years to come.
“What they are doing is going so slow that time will get so tight. And then they will want the state or municipal or federal government to step in with an injection of cash.”
The shocking thing is not just that it’s a strategy that has a great chance of success. It’s that everyone know it. It’s a chronicle of an abuse foretold.