Soccer may be the world’s most popular sport, but it often appears to be run more like professional wrestling than like anything else. Corruption is rife throughout international soccer, and Brazil is no exception. The nation, which boasts one of the world’s most successful national teams, is set to host the 2014 World Cup, but government inefficacy and major graft within Brazil’s soccer apparatus threaten its success. From The Economist:
It is becoming clear that promised improvements to the country’s creaking transport systems are unlikely to amount to much. Of 49 planned urban-transport schemes in the host cities, work has started on just nine. Airport upgrades are running behind schedule too, and more than half are just temporary fixes. The government is trying to damp down expectations. In an interview with Carta Capital, a weekly magazine, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, said that the urban-transport improvements were not essential for the tournament’s success. Miriam Belchior, the planning minister, suggested that the government would declare holidays on match days to avoid traffic jams.
Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, world football’s governing body, has written to Ms Rousseff expressing concern. But Ms Rousseff has cause to worry about FIFA. Just when she is doing her best to clean up the country’s politics—she has sacked four ministers over corruption claims—the World Cup is being run by one of football’s most tarnished figures. And claims of sleaze keep on coming.
The 2014 World Cup will place Brazil under a microscope — and it is also a dress rehearsal for the 2016 Olympic Games. It’s partly about competence: can the facilities be finished on time. And it’s also about cost and corruption: how bad will it be?
I’ve blogged earlier about how Brazil’s increasingly feisty press and restive public opinion has been in revolt against the old, entrenched and deeply corrupt style of Brazilian governance. Given the national passion for soccer, and the desire to pull off a successful World Cup, the entire country will be watching to see how the government and the national soccer federation pull this off.
The price of failure will be high for the officials and contractors involved; for Brazil, the World Cup and the Olympics offer a rare opportunity to move the country onto a higher path of transparency and accountability.