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If you invite people to a party and tell them there will be champagne, caviar, limousines to take them there and back, and a pool in which to frolic, you can’t celebrate how great the party was if you make them take the bus and then offer them warm Coke and a bag of crisps.

That’s a bit like what Brazil is doing following the success of the 2014 World Cup.

20131018_123654The tournament was undoubtedly the best World Cup in years, thanks in large part to the number of goals, the most per game since France in 1998.

It was also down, as I predicted here last December, to the warm and welcoming atmosphere offered by the host nation.

Many predicted a general administrative and organisational debacle and that never happened.

But to celebrate Brazil’s handling of the event without mentioning the broken promises is too much.

This was a golden opportunity for Brazil to add the infrastructure it badly needs. But half the public transportation projects they promised were not completed and many of them never will be.

Some of the airports they were going to build were not ready and at least four of the stadiums will be white elephants. Almost all were built with public money and are being handed over to private enterprise to profit from.

Two viaducts fell down because they were so badly constructed or rushed, and two people were killed. Another eight died while rushing to finish the stadiums, almost all of which were delivered behind schedule and over budget.

The government also repeated over and over they would respect the right to peaceful protest but they did not. They cracked down on any opposition groups and even rounded people up preemptively on the flimsiest of pretexts the night before the final.

Brazil deserves credit for pulling off a successful World Cup.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that success is down to constantly reduced expectations. (See this great piece about Brazil’s national trait of promising a lot and delivering a little.)

Much of what we were promised was not delivered. And much of what we were told was lies.

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Sometimes if you repeat a falsehood often enough you actually believe it’s true.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told us today the government has “done its part” and that the country will be ready to host the World Cup.

“I want to guarantee to everyone, first and foremost, that we have done our part,” she said. “We have stadiums ready, airports ready, we guarantee security during this period and I am sure that the Brazilian people are generous, happy and will welcome (visitors). Both off the field and on it we will show the power of our country.”

With 48 days to go three stadiums are still not ready and won’t be completely done by the time the games kick off on June 12. There won’t be enough time to properly test all the facilities.

Airports are even worse. The new terminal at Guarulhos might be “finished” but not enough to handle more than one-in-four of the international flights touching down at the airport, Brazil’s biggest. It will receive less than 10 % of all traffic.

The airport at Fortaleza won’t be ready so passengers will be greeted in a makeshift terminal area made out of tarpaulin.

And don’t get me started on public transport, the once much vaunted legacy that is now in tatters. Brazil shelved or cut back on so many projects that it is now spending more on luxurious stadiums for the few than proper roads, bus lanes, tram lines and metros for the many.

No sane person could consider Brazil “ready.”

Is there a silver lining in this? No.

But at least Dilma was right about one thing. Brazilians are generous, happy and welcoming. The Cup should at least be fun.

 

kitkatIn a country where almost everything is maddeningly expensive, one of the highlights of traveling is the stop at Duty Free on the way home.

In Brazil that means Dufry, the company with the contract to sell duty free items at Brazil’s airports.

I’ve long suspected that Dufry are ripping people off, much like Itau, whom I wrote about here last year.

My suspicions were aroused a couple of years ago. I forgot my headphones when heading to the US and bought a pair in duty free at Guarulhos airport. A day or so later I spotted the same pair in a store in Florida for almost half the price.

When I came back to Brazil I asked Dufry for an interview but their press officer said it wasn’t the right time to talk. A few weeks later his boss was in Folha boasting about how the firm was thinking of opening stores on Brazil’s land borders.

I came back to Brazil again this week and found one more example of how Dufry are ripping off unsuspecting customers.

A bag of 25 two-finger Kit Kats was on sale at the Dufry shop for 54 reais. That works out to be 1.08 reais per finger. It seemed expensive so when I got back to Sao Paulo I checked out the prices.

I picked up a four-finger Kit Kat at a pharmacy in Sao Paulo yesterday for 3.50 reais, or 0.875 reais per finger. Much cheaper than in Dufry’s duty free shop.

Remember the whole point of a duty free shop is that the items they sell are tax free and so should be cheaper than in regular stores.

It’s hard to look at Dufry and see a company that is willfully ripping off its customers.

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