With just two matches to go in the 2014 World Cup there is one question on the world’s lips: ‘Has it been worth all the money?’
Brazil’s staging of the World Cup has been the most expensive in history – and even then over a third of the proposed improvements to transportation have been scrapped or abandoned.
At a conservative estimate of $14bn, Brazil 2014 is almost $8bn more expensive than the previous record, set by Germany in 2006.
Critics in Brazil have scoffed at the $14bn estimate and say it is likely to cost 300% more, with retired Brazilian footballer Romario, now an MP, saying the eventual cost could be $46bn – a figure he named “the biggest theft in history.”
These figures illustrate a growing disparity, as has been the case in staging recent sporting ‘mega-events’, between the estimate and the eventual cost.
Seven years ago, when Brazil won the right to host the 2014 World Cup, a picture of recovery from underdevelopment and a forecast of accelerated growth was painted by then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In reality though, this was never going to be the case within such a limited time span.
Spending on the World Cup has seen the order of priority first extend to stadiums, airports and then transport.
The 12 stadiums themselves have cost $3.6bn to either build or renovate, several of which will struggle to recoup that expenditure as they host lower division teams with small attendance figures.
Brazilian airports have been given a long-awaited refurbishment to accommodate the 600,000 people who flew in to watch the tournament and the three million flying internally between venues.
But overall infrastructure improvements have suffered most as Brazil struggled to get the stadiums and airports ready for the World Cup. Just 36 of the 93 major projects were completed on schedule, and the country now faces a massive task to be ready in time for hosting the 2016 Olympics.
Amidst all the focus on these costs, there is good news economically.
The Brazilian government has estimated that over 710,000 permanent and temporary jobs have been created with additional research suggesting that fan spending could total $13bn.
Yet Brazilian banks remain cautious.
Excellent interest rates of 11% continue to benefit savers, but the ballooned prices aimed at the World Cup’s thousands of tourists has contributed to an inflation rate of 6.52% which could hit Brazilians hard in the aftermath of the tournament.
In addition to the spending, there have been more damaging stories emanating from Brazil during the World Cup.
Mass protests, sparked in 2013 by a raise in bus fares, have been commonplace while unsightly favelas – some hold up to one million people – have been uprooted to provide a more pleasant background to the venues.
In Rio, where Germany will clash with Argentina in the final on Sunday, drug gangs control several shanty towns, holding residents to ransom and treating them in an authoritarian manner.
There is also the crime rate to consider, with Rio believed to have the 19th-highest crime rate across the world’s cities. The Brazilian government pledged $900m towards security measures during the World Cup and reports of violence have been scarce.
At stadiums, South American fans were largely to blame for breaches of security.
A total of 20 Argentinean supporters forced their way in to the Maracana stadium in Rio during their country’s match against Bosnia, while in Chile’s match with Spain, 100 ticketless Chilean supporters also forced their way in to the same stadium and damaged the media centre, with 85 fans being detained.
Tragically, in the construction of some stadiums, eight workers died in accidents. Another worker died three days before the World Cup when a monorail collapsed in Sao Paulo.
The most recent disaster occurred in Belo Horizonte, where an overpass collapsed killing two people and leaving 22 others injured.
So, while the economic projections are encouraging for the future, there are still many discontented Brazilian people.
Some Brazilians wanted the $14bn spent on the World Cup to be ploughed into the country’s education and healthcare systems – this was a key aspect of the many protests before and during the tournament.
There is still a huge amount of poverty in the country, with some favelas controlled by rampant drug cartels and riddled by violent crime and corruption.
The staging of the World Cup itself however, has been a big success with viewers voting the 2014 World Cup to be the most exciting ever.
The tournament also produced shock results such as Holland’s 5-1 thrashing of reigning champions Spain and the 7-1 destruction of host nation Brazil by Germany.
FIFA have also been successful, controversially, as their $2bn investment looks set to reap commercial revenues of $4bn with the governing body reinvesting $20m into legacy projects throughout Brazil.
Whichever way the spotlight shines money could have been spent on other areas, but that is the case with every major sporting event.
Despite the huge expenditure Brazil, already a rapidly developing economy, will eventually benefit from the money invested in their new airports, transport links and infrastructure – even though some stadiums might not recoup the money spent on them.
The true cost of Brazil 2014 might never be known, but in general the country is expected to widen the disparity between rich and poor – and that is perhaps the most telling cost of all.
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