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Volume 23 No. 23
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Brazil can party, but ‘we are so much more’

Sports predictions come and go like the seasons, but without as much notoriety. This one we make without fear of error: You will be reading more about Brazil in these pages over the next five years. With the FIFA World Cup being held there in 2014, followed by the Summer Olympics in 2016, the world’s sixth-most populous nation will be the center of the sports world, and it wants to use those events as a showcase. Spearheading those efforts is Orlando Silva Jr., who, since 2006, has been Brazil’s minister of sports, a presidentially appointed, Cabinet-level post.

During a week when many world leaders assembled for the U.N. General Assembly, Silva was also in New York and he spoke through an interpreter with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Terry Lefton about plans for hosting — and exploiting — the world’s two biggest sporting events.

Bricks and mortar are only a part of Silva’s vision of a World Cup and Olympics legacy.
How much is being invested in infrastructure for the two events?

SILVA: Approximately $3 billion for 12 stadiums [both new and reconditioned]. Even in the case of the historic stadiums, like Maracanã, they will be generally new. From these 12, nine will be completed next year and 12 will be finished by the end of 2013. The second area of important investment is our airports. We will make investments in enlarging 13 airports — approximately $4 billion.

The important issue is not just World Cup, but to leave a legacy. So there’s a big issue of public transportation for our cities, which are densely populated. Cities where the World Cup will take place have important challenges in the area of mass transportation. So we are investing $8 billion in improving those networks.

We have other areas of investment that we should have specific figures for soon, like telecommunications and security, both of which will require improvements to host the World Cup and Olympics. But the money will create new jobs. We estimate that for World Cup, we will create 700,000 new jobs from 2010 through 2014. And of course, we anticipate incredible gains in the country’s image globally. We estimate the World Cup alone will bring in 600,000 international visitors.

As for the Olympics, we are talking about $15 billion for projects approved by the IOC. We are looking for the Games to do a lot in transforming the city of Rio de Janeiro. … Some degraded areas of the city will be or are objects of transformation by the state.

For Olympics, we will, of course, use much of what’s being built for World Cup. We estimate 40 percent of the facilities are those that were built for the 2007 Pan American Games. Whenever we don’t need permanent facilities we will try and build temporary ones, in order to avoid white elephants.

The legacy question is a good one, maybe your biggest concern. What do you hope to leave after the World Cup and Olympics other than bricks and mortar?

SILVA: We are hoping to leave a three-dimensional legacy. There’s the bricks themselves, which are not inconsequential (laughs). Our challenge is to build facilities that are economically sustainable, and our focus on airports and other transportation concerns is to leave a legacy there for the Brazilian people.

The sports legacy is important. Our people could know more sports … they know volleyball, could they know [field] hockey? Hopefully, these Games will allow us to build a network of facilities for sports throughout the country. And we want not only to organize the Olympic celebration, but to participate in it and be one of the main winning countries, not only in 2016, but thereafter. We want to get into the club and stay in it.

The third legacy involves the self-esteem of the Brazilian people for hosting such events and an opportunity to get the world to know us as one of the biggest democracies in the world, a safe place in which to invest, a complex economy and beautiful place. We want to show an enchanting but also a competent country that has the ability to organize.

Is it possible to compare the sports industry in Brazil to the one here?

SILVA: It’s a difficult comparison. The American sports industry is a consolidated one. There’s a tradition, and you have hosted many Olympics and there are many strong national leagues.

In Brazil, it is still an evolving sports market. It starts naturally with football, and there we see increases in TV rights, ticket prices, attendance at stadiums, but we still have a huge growth potential. More recently, management has become more professional — a consequence of the expansion of our sports market. Other sports have begun to claim more space: volleyball; basketball, with a new league; and judo, which has attracted many new sponsors.

Today it is common for different businessman to come to us and ask which sports could help them most. Brazil has never talked as much about sports as we are today. Four years ago, our Congress approved a law giving tax breaks for companies [domestic and foreign] that invest in sports. It shouldn’t just be government financing this. And there have never been so many opportunities.

What is the biggest misperception about Brazil here?

SILVA: Maybe that we are just a country of happy, warm and welcoming people. … In another four or five years, we will have the fifth most powerful economy in the world, and that is not by chance. We have a great capacity for enterprise and innovation. We are a warm, welcoming people who know how to throw a party. But we are so much more.

With all those stadiums being built, are naming rights a reality in Brazil yet?

SILVA: Not in the past, but it will become so. These events will bring to Brazil a new vision on how to manage sports — that’s what we are betting on. For now, these projects are being funded publicly. After, there will be private concerns.

What do you like about London’s preparations for their Games?

SILVA: First, their planning. Second, their concern about transforming their city. The heart of the Games in London will transform areas that had been in decay. Third, London is building stadiums that can be reduced in size later or moved. We will do the same things for the Cup and the Olympics. Fourth, London has a real concern for exchanged and partnership social concerns with sports that are very important.

What is your favorite American sport?

SILVA: I like your women’s soccer, in spite of [U.S. national team goalkeeper] Hope Solo, who prevented us from winning the Women’s World Cup. I was also very impressed when I watched an ice hockey game in Denver.