World Cup Opens Amid Social Unrest, As Study Finds Most Brazilians Oppose Event
Evidence of the FIFA World Cup is "easy to find" across host country Brazil, but "signs of resistance are also difficult to miss, and enthusiasm has been capricious at best," according to Maese & Phillips of the WASHINGTON POST. For months, government and sporting officials have "wondered whether this conflicted, soccer-loving nation would fully get on board with the World Cup." The "days, weeks and months leading up to the opening match have been largely overshadowed by social unrest and infrastructure failings of the host nation." The "costly preparations gave a platform for demonstrators and provided opportunity for a variety of labor strikes: bus drivers, police officers, garbage workers and transit employees." Thousands of Brazilians have "protested working conditions and the government money being poured into staging the tournament -- an estimated price tag" ranging from $11-14B. Brazil President Dilma Rousseff "took to nationwide television this week, pleading with her country to support the tournament, dismissing the alarms sounded by 'pessimists' and 'defeatists.'" But surveys have "found that more than half of Brazilians -- perhaps as many as two out of every three residents -- oppose the tournament taking place here" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/12). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes enthusiasm in Brazil is "tempered by preparations that have been nothing short of an embarrassment and fears the World Cup will give Brazil a black eye." The mood has "turned so sour that, according to a survey over the weekend, 54% of Brazilians say hosting the World Cup will do the country more harm than good" (USA TODAY, 6/12). NBC's Bill Neely reported riot police are "out in force" in Sao Paolo as Brazilians take to the streets to protest the money spent on the event ("Today," NBC, 6/11).
REGRETS, I'VE HAD A FEW...: In San Diego, Mark Ziegler writes each day has "brought more stories of disorganization and disaster -- unfinished stadiums, yellowing playing fields, crippling strikes, flooded airports, overbooked hotels, dengue fever outbreaks, soaring crime rates, lukewarm ambience." There is a "conspicuous lack of enthusiasm by a nation that parties like no other." The "buzz of an impending World Cup, the yellow and green flags hanging from windows in apartment blocks, the messages of encouragement for the beloved Selecao painted on streets, vendors hawking World Cup memorabilia are all strangely absent" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/12). ESPN's Tommy Smyth said, "Normally when you come to a World Cup, you hear all these horror stories beforehand. When the World Cup starts to play everything goes away, everything just happens to disappear. I think in Brazil it's going to be different. I think what happens on the street is going to have affect on what happens on the field, and I think what happens on the field is also going to have an effect on what happens on the street" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/11). In L.A., Paulo Sotero writes under the header, "For Brazilians, A World Cup Of Woe" (L.A. TIMES, 6/12). But in Miami, Michelle Kaufman writes, "Nobody knows how to throw a party like the Brazilians, and they are desperate to get back to what they love best" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/12). Brazil Institute Dir at the Woodrow Wilson Int'l Center For Scholars Paulo Sotero said, "Brazil is as ready as we can be." What fans will see on TV "will probably be very nice." Sotero: "We know how to throw a party in Brazil ... so there will be a positive image" ("Newshour," PBS, 6/11).
STADIUM CONCERNS: The AP noted Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo is "set to hold a capacity crowd for the first time" in today's opening match between Brazil and Croatia. The 61,600 spectators will "certainly test the facility and put a strain on safety plans and equipment, which was still receiving finishing touches Wednesday after chronic delays, worker deaths and other problems during construction." Just "two matches -- and none with more than 37,000 fans -- were held at the Itaquerao to test its readiness" (AP, 6/11). USA TODAY's Armour notes Itaquerao's roof "will not be finished until after the World Cup," and workers yesterday "could be seen -- and heard -- putting the finishing touches on smaller projects around the stadium" (USA TODAY, 6/12). CBS' Elaine Quijano said, "Many stadiums resemble construction sites. Other projects weren't completed at all" ("Evening News," CBS, 6/11). But in Boston, Kyle McCarthy notes most of the stadium concerns "will not impact the play on the pitch." All 12 of the World Cup venues are "largely in working order" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/12)
RETURN TO THE AMAZON: Royal Verd groundsman Carlos Botella, whose company is responsible for the turf at seven World Cup stadiums, conceded that Saturday's England-Italy match at Areba Amazonia "will be played out on a desperately inadequate surface." Botella said of the venue, which is set in the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus, "Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape. We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible, but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/12). Also in London, Andy Hodgson reported the rest of the stadium "is not yet completely finished." Reports indicate that "naked power cables are dangling from the walls of the changing rooms and that the car parks are not completed" (London EVENING STANDARD, 6/12). ESPN's Alexi Lalas said, "Get a field because that is going to be a horrible message if that field isn't ready for the actual soccer" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/11). The U.S. faces Portugal at the Manaus venue on June 22 (THE DAILY).