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The 'Fifa standard', mega events and politics in Rio de Janeiro

Pedro Strozenberg and Andre Rodrigues

 

Peter Strozenberg Executive Secretary of ISER and board member of Casa Fluminense.
Andre Rodrigues is a political scientist, associate researcher at ISER

On June 12, 2014, the ball rolls on the lawns of the FIFA World Cup. In the field of politics, however, the ball has been rolling since 2007, when Brazil – the sole candidate – was announced as the host country for this mega-event. In the main football tournament – the most popular sport in the world – what will happen between the four lines will only be a detail against the background of tensions and contradictions that are at play outside the fields.

The dimension of the spectacle, of the event, overlaps with the sport, its supporters, appreciators and supporters.

The magnitude of the mega-event defines a scenario in which large social and urban interventions are carried out in a short period of time, imposing social, political and economic costs. The advertising discourse, on the one hand, mobilized both by government agencies and by private operators and investors (the media included therein), welcomes the positive legacies and returns of the World Cup for the development of the nation and cities, with an emphasis on in infrastructure investments. On the other hand, social movements highlight the mismatches in the process of transforming cities and the perverse legacies of the Cup. Among the concerns of this field are issues such as: the excessive use of public money to finance a private event and the corrupt management of these investments; traumatic social impacts such as removals; the exacerbated increase in the cost of living; and the arbitrary and violent use of public security forces to guarantee order (not always the law).

To date, over R$ 25 billion in public funds have been disbursed.[1] Studies indicate that public investment in the Cup was responsible for paying around 80% of the costs of the event.[2] One of the driving factors behind this dimensioning of investments was the variation between estimated and realized costs. The adaptation works of Maracanã to the 'FIFA standard', for example, varied in the order of 69% more than initially budgeted.[3] The tighter the deadlines for the delivery of works, the less public control over the application of resources.

In addition to economic problems, these urban interventions have major social and political impacts. The infrastructure works and renovation of the stadiums and their surroundings drastically affect – and, in many cases, traumatically – the people who live along the routes of these interventions. The removal of residents from the affected areas represents an aspect in which the state is attuned more by the tuning fork of private interests than by its commitment to public affairs. Removal processes were, in general, carried out through force, without channels for dialogue and listening to the public interest, and without articulation with sufficient housing policies. The case of Aldeia Maracanã, an indigenous community that lived in the century-old building abandoned (by the government) of the former Museu do Índio, on the outskirts of the Maracanã stadium, was emblematic of this stance. The indigenous people resisted the removal order, there was great public mobilization on the part of social movements and some parliamentarians, and, in the end, they were forcibly removed. The building is now occupied by police garrisons who guard the place day and night to prevent the resistant group from returning. In this same example, it is possible to mention the Célio de Barros Athletics Stadium, the Júlio de Lamare Water Park and the Friedenreich Municipal School, properties that are part of the Maracanã Complex and were threatened with demolition, to make room for parking lots, buildings and even a shopping center, within the concession project to the private initiative of the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Maracanã, and in accordance with the FIFA project. In Rio de Janeiro, mobilizations in support of Aldeia Maracanã and the preservation of the surroundings of the Maracanã buildings became symbols of a critique of the city model in dispute and also of FIFA's interventionist model, which, along with the issues of transparency, enhanced , urban mobility and police violence, a series of protests, demonstrations and demanding movements that have gained momentum since June 2013, a period that became known as Jornadas de Junho. The contradictions in the context of organizing and hosting the World Cup have motivated several protests throughout Brazil. The State's response to these demonstrations has followed a repressive pattern in which the use of force often deviates from proportionate parameters guided by the prerogatives of police action in democratic contexts. The population and social movements have resisted and positioned themselves critically, but the State opens few channels of participation and dialogue in the search for democratic and legitimate solutions. By advocating the reactive and repressive use of the means of force, and by distancing itself from listening channels and incidence of public interest to deal with the conflict, the Brazilian State also distances itself from the premises of democracy. Discourses of citizenship and rights are replaced by the logic of control and punishment. Legislative proposals for banning the use of caps and masks arise in polarized and fearful contexts.

The imbalance between public and private interests in the context of the World Cup is perhaps the most sensitive aspect of this scenario and also the most serious issue from a political point of view. The 'Fifa standard' postulates parameters for adapting cities and sports structures that demand very high cost interventions and that produce a gap between sport and spectacle. Subtle semantic changes reveal this operation: 'cities' become 'host cities', 'stadiums' become 'arenas'. The times when the World Cup became much more than a football tournament are, therefore, times when mega-events bring to the fore a great tension between private economic power and the guarantee of the public good in democratic terms.

Almost 20 years ago, in 1996, Ibase and Ação da Cidadania, under the late leadership of Betinho, brought, in a firm and audacious speech, the importance of a participatory and transforming Social Agenda, whose main purpose was to overcome poverty and of inequality. There is the feeling that we have taken a step back and the Brazilian people will watch the World Cup as a guest in their own home.

 


[1] Data taken from the Transparency Portal of the federal government (http://www.portaltransparencia.gov.br/copa2014/empreendimentos/investimentos.seam?menu=2&assunto=tema, accessed on June 4, 2014).

[2] See PAULA, Marilene de; BERTELT, Dawid Danilo (eds.). (2014), Cup for whom and for what? A look at the legacies of the soccer world cups in Brazil, South Africa and Germany. Rio de Janeiro, Heinrich Böll Foundation.

[3] See, for example: http://esportes.terra.com.br/futebol/com-custo-69-maior-do-que-estimado-maracana-bate-r-1192-bilhao,1290c494f7200410VgnCLD2000000dc6eb0aRCRD.html, Accessed June 4, 2014.

[:en]Pedro Strozenberg and André Rodrigues

 

Peter Strozenberg is lawyer, executive secretary of ISER and board member of Casa Fluminense.
Andre Rodrigues is political scientist, research associated to ISER.

On June 12, 2014, the FIFA World Cup will kick off on football fields across Brazil. In the field of politics, however, FIFA fever kicked off in 2007 when Brazil – the only eligible candidate – was chosen to host the mega-event. During this tournament – the most popular in the world – what happens on the field will only be a small detail on the background panorama of tensions and conflicts that are at stake outside of the field.

The spectacle of this World Cup supersedes the sport and the passion of football fans.

The magnitude of this mega-event is defined by a scenario in which important social and urban interventions are carried out in a short period of time, imposing social, political and economic costs on citizens of the host country. On one hand, government agencies and private investors (including many members of the media) welcome the World Cup's legacy and emphasize positive returns in infrastructure. On the other hand, however, social movements emphasize discrepancies within the cities' transformation process and the Cup's perverse legacy. Among their concerns are: the excessive use of public funds to finance a private event and the corrupt management of these investments; the traumatic social impact of construction-related evictions; the exacerbated increase in the cost of living; and the violent and arbitrary use of public security forces to guarantee public order (while not always obeying the law).

Thus far, more then R$25 billion of public funds have been disbursed in preparation for the World Cup.[1]  Studies show that public funds will pay for about 80% of the event's costs.[2] One of the main reasons for this large public investment was the discrepancy between anticipated and actual costs. The transformation of Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium to fit the “FIFA standard”, for example, cost 69% more money than was anticipated in the original budget.[3] As construction deadlines approached, public control over expenses rapidly decreased.

In addition to economic problems, large-scale urban overhauls cause huge social and political impacts. The infrastructure projects and stadium renovations dramatically – and traumatically – affect the people who live in the surrounding areas. Evictions of residents of these neighborhoods demonstrated the attitudes of a State that is more tied to private interests than to the citizens it supposedly represents. In most cases, evictions were carried out through the use of force and without any dialogue or consideration of the public interest and how to provide alternative housing. Emblematic of this approach is the case of Maracanã Village, a settlement of indigenous citizens in the abandoned Museum of the Indian, located in the surroundings of the Maracanã stadium. Initially, the residents of Aldeia Maracaña resisted the government's eviction order through a huge public mobilization coordinated with emerging social movements and some elected representatives, but eventually they were forcibly removed. Policemen now guard the building day and night in order to prevent the indigenous group from reoccupying the building. In line with this example, we could also mention the Atletics Stadium Célio de Barros, the Aquatic Park Júlio de Lamare, and the Municipal School Friedenreich, all buildings that are a part of the Maracanã complex and which were threatened with demolition in order to create parking lots, new buildings, and even a shopping center. These constructions were planned as part of Maracanã-related private concessions granted for the FIFA project. In Rio de Janeiro, the demonstrations in support of Aldeia Maracanã and for the preservation of Maracanã´s surrounding buildings became symbols of a critique of the concept of a city and FIFA´s interventions that – along with discontent over governmental transparency, urban mobility, and police violence – triggered demonstrations and demands that have gained strength since the so-called June journey protests in June 2013. Contradictions within the process of preparing for the World Cup have resulted in further protests throughout Brazil. The State´s reaction to these events has followed a repressive pattern in which the use of force frequently oversteps the legal parameters of police action within a democratic context. Citizens and social movements continue to criticize and resist, but the State has opened up very few possibilities for participation and collective dialogue in hopes of achieving democratic and legitimate solutions. By allowing the use of reactive and repressive force, and by disabling or disregarding the input of public interests in order to address the conflict, the Brazilian State also distances itself from democratic premises. Citizenship and human rights are replaced by the logic of control and punishment. Legislative proposals to ban the use of hats and masks emerged from this polarized and fearful context.

The imbalance between public and private interests in the context of the World Cup is perhaps the most sensitive and politically important facet of this scenario. The “FIFA standard” includes guidelines for the development of cities and sports complexes that require high cost renovations that result in a gap between sport and spectacle. Subtle semantic changes are proof of this process: “cities” become “host cities” and “stadiums” become “arenas”. The moment when the World Cup became more than a football tournament is therefore the moment when the scene was set for an intense tension between private economic power and the guarantee of democratically-ensured public good.

Almost 20 years ago, in 1996, IBASE (Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis) and Ação Cidadania, under the leadership of late Betinho, championed, through a firm and audacious discussion, the importance of a participative and transformational Social Agenda with the central purpose of eliminating misery and inequality. It seems as if we have taken a step back, as if the Brazilian people will attend the World Cup as guests in their own home.

 


[1] Source: Transparancy Portal of the federal government (http://www.portaltransparencia.gov.br/copa2014/empreendimentos/investimentos.seam?menu=2&assunto=tema, accessed on June 4, 2014).

[2] Source: PAULA, Marilene de; BERTELT, Dawid Danilo (eds.). (2014), Cup for whom and for what? A look at the legacies of the soccer world cups in Brazil, South Africa and Germany. Rio de Janeiro, Heinrich Böll Foundation.

[3] Visit for example: http://esportes.terra.com.br/futebol/com-custo-69-maior-do-que-estimado-maracana-bate-r-1192-bilhao,1290c494f7200410VgnCLD2000000dc6eb0aRCRD.html, accessed on 4 June 2014.