José Campos Lara was born in Minas Gerais 55 year ago and he is a fan of Fluminense. Taking advantage of one of those traffic jams that bog down everyday life in Rio de Janeiro, he pulls out his son’s doctor ID. His son is a kidney doctor for children. “I want Brazil to lose the World Cup,” Campos Lara begins. “This country does not invest in hospitals or education. You'd have to hear about the trials my son has to go through to do his job. I’m sorry but I hope Brazil gets eliminated in the first round because the politicians need to be taught a lesson.”
He is not alone in this line of thinking. A Unicarioca survey published last week reported that only 55 percent of Rio will support the Brazilian team. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they don’t like soccer, while 22 percent don’t want to see Brazil win the World Cup. In February, the magazine Veja published a survey of 4,350 Brazilians in which only 11 percent of them thought the World Cup would be good for the country’s reputation.
Four years ago, weeks before the South African World Cup, Rio streets were adorned with flags and posters in support of the Canarinho, or Little Canary, as locals call the national soccer team. Today what is surprising is the dearth of support. In the legendary Maracaná, the stadium where the final game will take place this year, the only references to the games are a few poles painted in green and yellow. There is nothing of note in Copacabana or in Ipanema. In the Vidigal favela, kids run around in the soccer shirts bearing the number of their idols from various international clubs but there are no posters in support of the national team. The tradition of decorating the country before the World Cup, which reached its height in the 1980s and 1990s, seems to be disappearing.
“Four years ago there was a lot of atmosphere,” says Pedro Trengrouse, a United Nations consultant and lecturer at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “The government has not made an effort to include the nation in the World Cup. First, it sold transportation projects as World Cup-related infrastructure when they have nothing to do with the games, and that raised high expectations. Secondly, Brazilians are suffering a shortage. Few of them have tickets or can participate in the party. The government promised more than it delivered and thus caused a climate of low morale and frustration.”
In one survey, only 11 percent of Brazilians thought the World Cup would be good for the country’s reputation
It does not appear that consumption went up either. Rio businesses keep saying there is less work than four years ago, even though the games are on their home turf. “People in Rio are feeling low because of the claims about excessive costs,” says Fabrisio, owner of a decor and gift shop in downtown Copacabana. “The transportation strikes and demonstrations are not helping,” explains Antenor Barros Leal, president of the Rio commerce association. Although he says he is “obviously optimistic about the World Cup,” he is worried about “the high costs for Rio and Sao Paulo. Those are not attractive. I hope business picks up within 15 days.”
It seems only one company has nothing to complain about: Panini, the publishing house whose official album for the World Cup has sold like hotcakes. “It’s historic in that the championship will take place at home,” says Fernando, a 32-year-old man who was buying colored prints at a newsstand in Copacabana. The owner of the booth later said that the kids snapped up the prints. “They are immune to the unease.”
Moody’s Investors Service, an agency that analyzes risk and impact, warned a few months ago that the World Cup would have a “short-lived” impact on the Brazilian economy. According to the English consulting firm Capital Economics, GDP will only grow by 0.1 to 0.2 percent as a result of the tournament. This data is at odds with a report that the Getulio Vargas Foundation and the consulting firm Ernst & Young published in 2010. Brazil was oozing optimism and euphoria because of the “possible economic impact” of the World Cup, which could reach €143 billion or €44 billion. The study predicted the creation of 3.6 million jobs.
Edson Paulo Domingues, an economics lecturer at the Minas Gerais Federal University, says the total number of jobs created fell around 300,000, barely 10 percent of what the government expected. “The methodology the consulting firms used was less sophisticated and they tend to inflate projections,” Domingues explains. “Every country announces greater impact than they will actually have.”
The government has not made an effort to include the nation in the World Cup” United Nations consultant Pedro Trengrouse
Rio and Sao Paulo hotels have dropped prices by 20 to 30 percent in the last month as the difference between the projected number of tourists – 600,000 – and the reality become clear. In Rio there is the further complication of an inflation bubble. According to the forum of hotel operators in Brazil, one-third of the rooms available during the World Cup have not been booked. If visitors are prepared to wait a while, bargain prices are likely to be seen in some downtown hotels.
Brazil is a gigantic country. There is more excitement in some of its cities, such as Salvador de Bahía, than there is in Rio or Sao Paulo. In less-developed areas, such as Natal, Manaos and Cuiabá, where some games will take place, “the infrastructure is much worse, and so the World Cup will leave a legacy,” according to Domingues. Will all this unease turn into joy and cheer once the ball is rolling? The president of the Olympic Public Authority, General Fernando de Azevedo, thinks so. “Before the London games started there was a negative atmosphere. We are the soccer country. As soon as the ball is in play we will only be thinking about winning and supporting our team.”
Translation: Dyane Jean François