International Sport Competitions Hinder Latin American Development

Jose Coronado, Columnist

Amid social turmoil and economic recession, Brazil will host the 2016 Olympic Games this August. This is the second major sporting event Brazil will host, the first being the Soccer World Cup in 2014. In 2007, when Brazil launched the bid to host the Olympics, everything seemed perfect for the South American nation. The country had an annual GDP growth of 6 percent and was enjoying a promising level of political and economic stability. Brazilians could not say they were living in a first world country, but they could said they were on the road towards the prestigious status. It was in the midst of these conditions that Brazil made its fatal mistake–many of its current issues stem from a push to flaunt Brazilian prosperity and make a final push for first world status. In my point of view, Brazil made the same mistake that many Latin Americans, individuals and nations, have made–they tried too hard to put a good moment on exposition. In order to prove that you have money, you have to spend big on flashy things. Brazil went after the two biggest sporting events they could bid for and got them.

First Brazil won the bid to host the 2014 World Cup. But organizing a World Cup requires massive investment in infrastructure. Airports, roads, bridges and stadiums had to be remodeled or built from scratch in order to meet FIFA standards. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Sport, the World Cup had a 11.6 billion dollar price tag. This World Cup was almost three times more expensive than the World Cup in South Africa 2010, which was priced out at 4 billion dollars. There was plenty of criticism towards the Brazilian government for this spending this exorbitant amount of money for an event that lasted no more than a month. Not only was the this the most expensive World Cup in history, the costs were even higher because of rampant corruption. Workers and journalists often reported missing materials at the working grounds. Brazilian politicians contracted with construction companies that had previously funded political campaigns with multimillion dollar contracts to build facilities. Some of the new stadiums built for the World Cup have offered virtually no benefits to their respective cities since the World Cup’s close. The Stadium Mane Garrincha remodeled just for the tournament cost 900 million dollars, becoming the second most expensive stadium in the world after London’s Wembley Stadium. Brasilia, where Mane Garrincha Stadium makes its home, doesn’t even have a professional soccer team. Other than concerts and other events, it is unlikely to see regular usage again.

So far Brazil expects to spend 11 billion dollars on the next Olympic games. Huge events like the World Cup and the Olympics are not the main causes of the political turmoil that is ailing Brazil right now, but developing countries should not incur these types of spending when education and health are more important for their general development. The blame should not only be on Brazil either. Organizations like FIFA and the Olympic committee are well aware of each country’s economic and political situations. When a country bids to host these games committees first scrutinize the country. How is it possible that they can so easily turn a blind eye to corruption and poverty? I think it is immoral and irresponsible for these organizations to give these big events to countries that are clearly in trouble.

This last week the Mexican Soccer Federation announced a plan to bid for the 2026 World Cup. Although Mexico is not experiencing recession and is politically stable, it should make education and violent issues like cartel violence their priority–The World Cup would not solve either of these. Mexico and other Latin American nations need to learn from Brazil’s experience and avoid bidding for these sporting events that usually result in more debt than revenue.