Columns

World Cup for whom?

BY ERICK VASCONCELOS

Wednesday, May 28, 2014    

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ACCORDING to Leonardo Dupin on journalist Juca Kfouri's blog, the Minas Arena consortium will have the right to operate the Minerao soccer stadium in Belo horizonte for 25 years after their investment of about $300 million, $180 million of which was kindly lent by Brazil's state development bank, BNDES. The agreement guarantees that the Government of the state of Minas Gerais will cover any losses in their business up to $1.7 million. In 2013, the consortium had losses every month of the year and the State footed the bill, giving them over $20 million to secure corporate profits.

The Government is generally not as straightforward in trying to protect corporations from losses. It seems that this time, the State didn't try to be very roundabout and just funnelled money directly from the pockets of the tax-paying poor.

The consortiums that control other World Cup stadiums have similar sweetheart deals, with "investment" money generously coming from BNDES, the largest tool of upward wealth transfer in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff appears frequently on TV to assure us that the total spent on stadiums was "only" $4 billion, whereas total overall is around $11.5 billion, most of which should actually be "recouped" by the public, because they were "loans".

Rouseff forgot to account for subsidies and concession contracts. She also forgot to account for evictions and urban make-up projects intended to hide our poor from fearful tourists. Not to mention the cost of the police state that has wreaked havoc since the World Cup and the Olympics were announced to be held in Brazil.

We're less than a month from the World Cup and yet we see few flags hanging from windows, few paintings of the tournament's mascot on walls. The announcement of the national team was met with little anticipation or surprise, and very little positive speech is heard about the championship at all.

Protests and criticisms have abounded, however, culminating on May 15 in the International Day of World Cup Resistance (15M). People took to the streets in many Brazilian capitals, accompanied by teachers, public transportation workers and, in Pernambuco, police strikes. Also worthy of note was the manifestation of the Homeless Workers Movement, comprised of people who have the biggest reasons to complain: The World Cup caps off a model of urban development that evicts the poor from the city centres and pushes the value of their labour even lower.

The Government, as always, tries to paint the Worker's Party (PT) administration as the halcyon days of never-ending development, but the honeymoon is over. No matter who conquers the World Cup, the real winner is corporate capitalism.

Nothing illustrates this better than the gentrification of Maracana stadium, once a hub for the people, but now a place attended exclusively by the elite, where fans are supposed to watch the game sitting down, taking off your jersey is forbidden, fireworks are "unsafe", and the flags you take are strictly regulated according to FIFA's rulebook. If not even soccer is like we used to do it, we can only ask the biggest question from 15M: World Cup for whom?

Erick Vasconcelos is a contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

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