If they wanted to look wasteful, extravagant and divorced from the gritty reality of Brazil’s millions of poor, World Cup organisers outdid themselves by choosing this remote, luxury beach resort as the venue for this week’s draw.In the old days when FIFA didn’t burn money with such abandon, pitting one World Cup team against another used to be simple. Jules Rimet, the Frenchman who founded the tournament in 1930, got his grandson to make the draw in 1938. Young Yves Rimet, in smart shorts and a tie, climbed onto a table to pick the names out of a glass jar.
Organising the same process in this paradise of beaches where sea turtles lay eggs and sea breezes whisper in coconut trees is costing FIFA and Brazilian authorities a cool $ 11mn.
Larger than life
To host the television extravaganza the World Cup draw has become, a mammoth white tent — more of an aircraft hangar, really — has been erected on the sand. At 9,000 square metres in area, it is bigger than most of the world’s cathedrals. It is carpeted inside, so the high heels and smart shoes of the 1,300 guests shouldn’t make a clatter. It is air conditioned against Brazil’s summer heat and powered by mobile generators. And all this will have to be dismantled, packed up and trucked out after Friday’s 90-minute show.
It looks, in short, like a wasteful folly, a metaphor for a World Cup where Brazil is spending far more than it said it would on the month-long tournament. It built and renovated 12 stadiums, four more than FIFA actually needed. Back in 2007, when Brazil was bidding to host the World Cup, its football federation estimated the stadium cost at $1.1bn. The estimates climbed to $2.2bn by 2010. The government’s latest count is $3.4bn.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand why protesters who flooded Brazil’s streets this June added World Cup spending to their list of complaints. When the world’s seventh-largest economy isn’t providing decent public services for all of its 200mn people and has millions stuck in third-world poverty, extra care should have been taken to ensure that World Cup spending could be justified.
Even if one accepts that the draw will serve as a window on the world for Brazil and that the World Cup is more than just a simple football tournament, Holding the draw in the exclusive Costa do Sauipe resort against this backdrop of popular discontent makes the World Cup look like a junket and its organisers appear tone deaf.AP