The World Cup starts tomorrow in Brazil and the paint on the stadiums is unlikely to be dry. At least, that’s is what we are being told. Whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup, questions always arise as to whether a country is ready to host the games. Four years ago in South Africa the world questioned if the tournament would be a success.
The result was a memorable World Cup and we barely heard anything about unfinished stadiums, lack of security, or any other negative media attention meant to undermine the host country.
This time, there are serious doubts about the preparedness of Brazil that are not unjustified. There have been multiple deaths in the construction of stadiums that may or may not be ready for play according to FIFA. Meanwhile, in the streets there has been social unrest due to the outlandish spending on football stadiums while the country’s infrastructure is in shambles.
In CNN Money, there is an article analyzing the expected economic impact of South Africa hosting the World Cup and the resulting reality: millions upon millions spent with a feeble spike in the economy. The question is whether the externalities of hosting such games including country pride and promotion of tourism are worth the cost of forgoing investments in public works projects that arguably are more impactful than the few weeks of euphoria while hosting an international tournament. This naturally elicits the next question: should emerging economies be granted these games with many examples of venues from Olympics past that have now been abandoned?
Last New Years, I visited South Africa making the usual circuit from the Western Cape through Cape Town, Knysna, to Port Elizabeth, to Durban, then onto Johannesburg. In Cape Town, there is a beautiful stadium that hosted the World Cup semi finals. Today, apart from some sporting matches and concerts, the stadium sits idle, apart from gracing the adjoining golf course.
Upon arriving in Durban, I asked the taxi driver about the immaculate stadium that is right in the heart of the city. He told me that unlike the other stadiums in South Africa, this one was actually making money. I was laughing when he told me how.
This June and July the futbol elites are back at it again, ready to battle for my favorite trophy in all of sports, the FIFA World Cup Trophy. For the next two months, the world will be focused on Brazil, anxiously waiting to see if the tournaments goes off without a hitch.
I, on the other hand, am more curious as to what amusement ride will be placed in the Arena Amazonia, a stadium built right in the heart of the jungle.