Sunday 9 February 2014

Opinion: Will the Brazil 2014 World Cup be a Sochi or a South Africa?

The derisory comments made about the infrastructure in Sochi at the Winter Olympic Games have been round the world twice over but will have served as a deafening alarm bell for officials in Rio de Janeiro. 

 As one of the last high profile global sporting events before this summer's football World Cup, FIFA and Brazilian authorities will be watching the fan and media reaction to Sochi's shortcomings closely. Many of the comments, largely coming via Twitter from journalists, complaining about the accommodation and organisation in Sochi have been either deliberately humorous pictures of minor hotel faults or attempts to add insults to injury. 

It's clearly become rapidly cool to undermine the Olympic organisers - not least as Russia's authoritarian image means looking disorganised in public will hurt more - and the hashtag #Sochiproblems hosts an avalanche of quips.

But underneath the jokes, a serious warning lies. In Sochi, the stadia and slopes are in fine fettle but if everything else falls apart then the media and fans quickly make their voice heard.

FIFA's deliberate change in strategy over the last decade to use the World Cup as an opportunity to allow countries to develop their infrastructure at huge costs has proved a controversial one. The motives of FIFA - who notably takes large revenues from the World Cup's host nation - should always be questioned given its dubious record but the idea it may help the development of infrastructure and create jobs is admirable. 

As when South Africa was preparing for the last World Cup in 2010, much of the build up to this summer's tournament and 2016's Olympics has been dominated by questions over whether Brazil will be able to handle fans descending en masse, the likely political demonstrations and fan safety. While safety concerns - aside from a few stray live wires in showers - have not been foremost in the build up to Sochi, political debates over corruption and homosexuality in Russia have been. Last year's Confederations Cup was overshadowed by clashes between protestors over Brazilian state spending and police and it appears likely this will happen again.

Brazilian authorities can ill afford for the World Cup to go wrong with the Olympics coming so rapidly down the track afterwards. They will take heart from the fact South Africa coped admirably with the fans and crime stats were low. The tournament ran smoothly and the Vuvuzela, perhaps unfortunately, became a global hit.

However, it should be noted South Africa's stadiums predictably sit like so many before it (Athens anyone?) as rarely used white elephants. Even sports-mad and built up London has struggled to find an ideal solution for its Olympic stadia so Brazil will need to make sure plans are in place for new build stadiums. 

With fears over the safety of the builders at the Brazilian stadiums already hitting headlines, the pressure on Brazil to get it right is ratcheting up. The whole world wants a spectacular and colourful World Cup in arguably football's spiritual home. Let's hope #BrazilProblems remains confined to jokes noting the national team's embarrassment of riches in midfield. 


  1. Well I think these #BrazilProblems has already been addressed to the higher division and I think thy're already working with these issues,
    John | World Cup Betting