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Monday, June 16, 2014

No Bread, Just Circuses

The Federation Internationale de Football Association arrives for a month or so every four years on a mission: to plunder the financial resources of any country unfortunate/fortunate enough to be hosting FIFA's passionate extravaganza beloved of nations from Serbia to Russia, Brazil to South Africa in the game its admirers dub 'the beautiful game'.

In South Africa in 2010 FIFA compelled the construction of stadia which will never again be filled to anything approximating capacity as the huge structures settle into insolvency and disuse, crumbling with time, a reproach to yet another country whose majority population lives with inadequate housing, health care and security. This year, Brazilians have been protesting for quite a while at the waste their government has foisted upon them, even though Brazilians' passion for soccer has few parallels.

Stadium construction has taken $3.6-billion of taxpayer funding, despite that in real terms the country cannot really 'afford' such an expenditure other than in social infrastructure that is badly needed in a country representing some of the highest income inequality globally. Futebol expresses the national identity, deeply engrained into the souls of Brazilian boys and men. This year's FIFA event in Brazil will come out on the north side of $11-billion.

Members of the Brazilian army, navy and air force riding horses attend presentation of defence and security personnel and equipment that will be used during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. (Reuters photo)

That is $11-billion expressing a system looted by crooked politicians and giant corporate interests prepared to ravish any economy that doesn't respect itself and its civic obligations. In South Africa FIFA insisted its parliament pass legislation ensuring few inconveniences would interfere with FIFA's business model. In Brazil the host country at the specific request of FIFA, ignores its law prohibiting alcohol sales in stadiums enabling World Cup sponsor Budweiser to anticipate a return in suds sales.

And then there's another clever feint taken from experience in South Africa where the sport venues also have stadium exclusion zones wherein only FIFA-approved products are sold. Big Macs and Adidas apparel will do exceedingly well with their captive clientele. Brazilians who took exception to all of this were impolitely corrected by their government dispatching police geared for riots, masked, and expressing rubber bullets and tear gas in their direction.

Brazilian police wearing body armour, clad in black, with faces covered in black balaclavas protect the outer perimeter of the venues. Seems like a strange kind of war being waged by government against its civilians who dare dissent.

Brazilian army sharpshooters participate in a training session ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup. (AFP photo)
But Rio de Janeiro can handle the inconvenience of dissenters with the dispatch of over 150,000 members of the police and armed forces. Brazilians went about their business, not the least bit dismayed that a Brazilian Navy ship patrolled Ipanema Beach in front of hotels. The military contemplating the possibility of shelling the humanity that might descend in a mass dissent?

Brazilian army soldiers salute during the presentation of the troops and equipment that will be involved in the World Cup security operation, at the army headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil. (AFP photo)

The strange lack of proud Brazilians wearing the nation's colours of green and yellow seems peculiar; where's the celebration? The Christ the Redeemer statue fabled for its presence world-wide, looks pensively critical. Perhaps it is pondering the Japan World Cup, the Beijing Olympics with their scarcely used, horribly expensive infrastructure....  Concrete poured for the Sochi Winter Olympics appears to be cracking. East London's post-Olympic regeneration remains a wistful wish.

Recently, German, Swiss, Swedish and Polish bids to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics have been quietly withdrawn; cost concerns do matter in some jurisdictions. Munich and Davos-St.Mortiz withdrew their bids post-message from voters rejecting their Olympic bids. Krakow too held a referendum on the issue with over 70% voting against.

But that's all right, there's still Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan bidding for the 2022 Games. And the next two World Cups will be hosted in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Qatar should have no trouble ponying up the billions it takes to present a perfect venue to the waiting world. Over 400 Nepali construction workers have died in Qatar on World Cup construction sites.

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