The twentieth edition of the FIFA World Cup, the biggest single-event competition event in the world, is right around the corner. This year, the 32 national teams will meet and compete in Brazil from the 12June to 13 July. The situation in the Brazil is far from rosy. Political, crime and logistical issues abound. Check out our two-blog series for a quick overview of where things currently stand – and what you can do to stay safe if you’re traveling to Brazil to watch fútbol.
Local support for the World Cup has dwindled
Back in 2008 nearly 80% of the Brazilian public was in favor of the event. Fast-forward to today and that number has fallen to under 50%. Let’s rewind to 2012 to find out why. That was the year when protests erupted against the high price of public transportation. But “The Brazilian Autumn” unrest was about more than bus tickets. Throughout 2013 protests snowballed in growing frustration with a wide range of problems plaguing the country. And the list of complaints is long: the high cost of living, extreme social inequality, lackluster healthcare and educational services, a flurry of corruption scandals ensnaring elected officials, and, of course, the amount of money (over 11 billion dollars) spent on a sporting event that could instead be used to fix – or at least lessen – some of the country’s problems. Unrest and demonstrations continue. Brazilian authorities have already confirmed that 150,000 police officers and troops, in addition to 20,000 private security staff, will be deployed during the Cup in order to ensure the safety of tourists and citizens alike.
Crime is one of the usual suspects in Brazil
Things are tense, particularly in Rio’s poorer neighborhoods where the government is entangled in an ongoing war with drug traffickers and cartels. The past couple of years have seen plenty of gruesome murders, revenge killings and muggings. Now, Rio officials have initiated a pacification program in order to improve security for both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. But even though more than 9,000 police officers have been deployed to the favelas, things have failed to improve markedly. Still, things need to be put in perspective. Of all Brazil’s host cities, Rio is the one most severely marked by crime. Murder rates and gun crimes throughout the rest of the country remain well below the peak of the mid-2000s. Tourists are unlikely to be directly affected by the drug war as long as they adopt basic security precautions and do not wander off into unknown territory.
Infrastructure and logistics: challenging in the best of times
In January, FIFA President Sepp Blatter told The Telegraph, “Brazil just found out what [the scale of work] means and has started work much too late. No country has been so far behind in preparations since I had been at FIFA, even though it is the only nation which has had so much time—seven years—in which to prepare.” With three times the budget of the 2010 World Cup and ample time to get ready, one would have expected things to go more smoothly for Brazil. However, out of twelve planned stadiums, only six were ready by summer 2013. The other six were supposed to be done by December but missed their deadlines. FIFA now thinks three (São Paulo, Natal and Porto Alegre) may still not be ready when the Cup opens. Eight workers have died so far, two of them at the São Paulo stadium after a crane collapsed. Accusations of bad management and corruption keep piling up. But stadiums aren’t the only issue. Many infrastructural projects have been abandoned or postponed. Airport upgrades have been delayed – in some cases all the way to 2017. The monorail system in Manaus and the Bus Rapid Transit project in Belo Horizonto have simply been cancelled. As hotels fill up, alternative accommodations are being offered by the authorities in the form of jungle lodges and boat cabins. Some entrepreneurial favela inhabitants are also getting in on the lodging crunch and offering to let rooms in their homes.
Foreign fans are staying home
The 2014 World Cup is shaping up to be a very Brazilian affair in more ways than one. While 1.3 foreigners travelled to Germany for the 2006 Word Cup, officials say that only about 500,000 of the 2.7 million tickets sold thus far have been bought by foreigners. Overall, should one be worried? It’s hard to be certain until the World Cup begins. After all, South Africa was in a similar state of disarray just before their World Cup, and so was Russia prior to the Sochi Olympics – yet both events unfolded without major hiccups. Still, it can’t hurt to be careful. Check out our next blog for some simple tips if you’re a football fan getting ready to travel to Brazil.