Brazil President Dilma Rousseff Says World Cup Proved Doubters Wrong
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff said that the country "has proved its doubters wrong by putting on a highly successful World Cup," according to Manuel Martinez of the AP. Concerns that stadiums and airports would not be ready or that protests would disrupt football’s premiere event "dogged Brazil in the years leading up to the event." But now, with the Cup almost over, "people are hailing it as a sporting success and hundreds of thousands of fans have applauded the warmth of Brazilians and the lively party atmosphere." Rousseff said, "We showed that our people know how to have good interaction not only among ourselves but with the foreigners that we received." Transportation "has been far better than forecast," which industry groups have said is partly because the number of air passengers during the month of the World Cup was significantly lower than normal. With Brazil essentially on holiday for the games, "there were far fewer business travelers and many ordinary Brazilians avoided trips because of high ticket costs during the tournament." Many football fans "are calling this one of the best World Cups in decades, given the high-level of play on the field and lack of serious hitches in logistics for fans as they made their way to stadiums" (AP, 7/11).
ROUSSEFF CRITICAL: In N.Y., Paulo Trevisani reported Rousseff was critical of Brazil's football structure, "where clubs are constantly in debt and under no obligation to show their accounts to regulators." Rousseff: "We need transparency." The president also called for "more investment in junior leagues as a way to improve the sport in Brazil." Rousseff also called for Brazilian clubs to retain their athletes for longer, "instead of selling them out for European clubs, as they have been doing for decades to improve their finances." Rousseff: "Brazil is one of the largest economies in the world. Don't tell me our clubs aren't able to retain their players for longer." Rousseff "stopped short of announcing any government action on the subject" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/11). In an editorial, the FINANCIAL TIMES reported by Monday the tournament will "be over." Brazilians "will then turn off their plasma screens, tidy up the beer cans and rise from a month" of football stupor. The metro stations and airports "will fill again." Traffic "will return." Rousseff will host the sixth summit of Brics countries -- with the Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African leaders in attendance -- "and campaigning will begin for October’s presidential election." Life in Brazil "will return to what usually counts as normal." While perhaps bleary and hungover, Brazilians "have good reason to look back on the tournament and feel pleased with how it went." Yet "there were many unfortunate aspects as well." Foremost is the way FIFA "hijacked a nation." The extent to which it can override national rules, such as a ban on beer sales in football stadiums, "is absurd." Brazil also showed that "it could deliver spanking new stadiums and infrastructure on time, but at four times budgeted cost." The conventional wisdom is that the World Cup "will have no effect" on Rousseff’s chances in the election in three months’ time. History "shows no correlation between winning or losing the tournament, and winning or losing the presidency." She remains the favorite "to win in October." Yet "the opposition could still close the gap." Their calls for change "could resonate with a population that, as last year’s mass street protests showed, is increasingly prepared to demand better government accountability and public services, with less corruption" (FT, 7/11). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote the total value of the broadcasting and marketing rights for this World Cup amount to roughly $4B. Every nickel of that "goes into FIFA’s pocket." Increasingly, they "erect tax-free bubbles around the stadiums." We "are long past pretending that holding a World Cup is a smart bottom-line proposition." That myth "died in South Africa." This "has created a vicious economic circle." FIFA "will not substantially share revenues with the hosts." As a result, "the hosts are encouraged to do this on the cheap." Everyone "talks a good game about the fan experience and infrastructure improvements," but it does not materialize (GLOBE AND MAIL, 7/12).
FINAL WHISTLE: In London, Roger Pielke wrote with the final whistle of Sunday’s match between Germany and Argentina, "the world’s attention will move away from football for another four years." With it "will go the bright spotlight" on FIFA. FIFA "has long been plagued by scandal." In the coming days, "it is expected to announce the results of an investigation into bribery allegations surrounding its decision to hold the tournament in Qatar in 2022." History "would tell us not to expect much." With the World Cup over, "attention moves on." It "should not." Football "is a global phenomenon that cuts across business, politics and culture." A world sport needs an organizing body "that upholds the highest standards of governance." FIFA "has become impervious to change." True, "it has powerful partners" -- the governments who host its tournaments, and the sponsors who bankroll them to the tune of billions of dollars -- "which in theory should be able to hold it to account." In practice "they do not" (FT, 7/12).