South America Living

After the World Cup, Brazil Looks Forward

Argentine fans mourn their team's final loss to Germany as workers clean up Copacabana Beach

Argentine fans mourn their team’s final loss to Germany as workers clean up Copacabana Beach

In the early days after Brazil’s whirlwind month at the center of attention for not just sports fans, but billions of people around the planet, South America’s largest country is assessing the impacts of hosting the FIFA World Cup, and moving on with plans for the future.

Although Brazil’s national team suffered embarrassment in the competition, losing its last two games in humiliating fashion and finishing fourth, the nation’s civic leaders are calling the event a success for its economy and tourism. As President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff, Aloisio Mercadante, said, “We lost the trophy, but Brazil won the World Cup.” According to the government, more than 1 million foreigners visited Brazil for the Cup, and about 3 million Brazilians traveled around the country. More than 95% of visitors, according to official reports, said they want to return someday.

Tourists at Rio de Janeiro's "Cristo Redentor" during the 2014 World Cup

Tourists at Rio de Janeiro’s “Cristo Redentor” during the 2014 World Cup

It will be years before the real economic impacts of the World Cup will be measurable, and the fact that Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics will make it virtually impossible for economists to accurately assess the event’s effects.

Protestor in Sao Paulo, June, 2013

Protestor in Sao Paulo, June, 2013

Brazil is a nation of contrasts and, especially for the traveler, choices. We can choose to focus on the tourist-friendly and beautiful upscale attractions and events, like Rio’s legendary Carnaval, and not so much on the still-widespread poverty and civil unrest in a country in the process of becoming a major economic and democratic force in the world. In the months before the soccer tournament started in June, 2014, we heard a lot about the people of Brazil expressing, often quite vocally, their anger that the government was spending billions on a sporting event for foreigners at the expense of vital services for citizens, like education, health care and public transportation. Reporter Amos Barshad spent time during the World Cup with activists in the favelas who are committed to keeping pressure on the powers that be for justice and opportunity for the folks the world did not see on the television coverage of the tournament. What he found is a lot of patriots in the slums, who believe in a better future for their country, who love the beautiful game of futebol but want their leaders to keep their priorities straight. Those of us who watched the World Cup and daydreamed (or actually made plans) about visiting this remarkable country would do well to keep in mind these forgotten folks, and keep abreast of their efforts.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a former political prisoner herself, was under a lot of pressure because of this sporting tournament. With an election coming up in the fall, her leadership in putting on this huge international event (certainly the largest of its kind ever in South America) would bear heavily on her re-election chances. Early assessments are that the country, and therefore Rousseff, performed admirably in the logistics, atmospherics, security and general co-ordination of the World Cup. While there are still huge economic challenges facing this ascendant power, millions of Brazilians have been lifted into the middle class in the last decade. In spite of her team’s shameful losses, Rousseff stands to ride the success of the Cup’s management to another four year term.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (in green) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) watching the World Cup Final match, which Germany won

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (in green) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) watching the World Cup Final match, which Germany won

We will all keep our eyes on Brazil, not just because it’s a magical land with countless memorable destinations and beautiful people, but because the country is fully engaged in preparations to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. While the matches of the World Cup were played in 12 cities scattered around Brazil, the Olympics will be held entirely in Rio. More than 5 times as many visitors are expected for the 2016 Games, which will feature about 16,000 athletes (compared to only 736 who played in the Cup). So Brazil is gleaning lessons from the soccer tournament as it gets ready to take another turn on the world stage in just two years.

October 2, 2009: Brazilians on Copacabana Beach celebrate the announcement that Rio will host the Olympics

October 2, 2009: Brazilians on Copacabana Beach celebrate the announcement that Rio will host the Olympics




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