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It should perhaps come as no surprise


With the delays, protests, cost overruns, strikes and related problems in the run-up to Brazil’s hosting of the FIFA soccer championship, it should perhaps come as no surprise that a 46,000-seat stadium was built in a city that’s largely inaccessible by road and whose soccer FIFA 15 ultimate team averages only 4,000 fans per FIFA game.This is the Brazilian FIFA, after all. Much that has happened so far has made little sense. Manaus, a remote city deep in the Amazon, wanted an oversized stadium, and got it, at a cost of $270 million, out of a total of $11 billion that Brazil has spent so far on the preparations.Never mind that the stadium will be used for only four FIFA games. Most exceptionally large events — and the FIFA is the largest sports event on earth, with almost 1 billion TV viewers — involve cost overruns and claims of corruption, but Brazil has taken waste and poor planning to unprecedented levels. The nation last hosted a sporting event of that size in 1950, when the Cup wasn’t even televised. This year, it can be argued that it gets to kickoff on Thursday as the least prepared nation among the 16 that have hosted the Cup. Airports are unfinished and hard to navigate; the threat of disruptive strikes and water and power shortages looms; the poor condition of the FIFA 15 playing field in some stadiums — including in Manaus — may cause injuries to FIFA 15 players; and a majority of Brazilians, after hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest of spending too much money for the Cup, think it was a bad idea to organize it. In short, the first FIFA to be held in the most soccer-crazed nation is risking disaster.So what was the Olympic Committee thinking when it chose Brazil to host the 2016 FIFA games as well? Brazil will be the second country to get the events back to back, the first being the United States in 1994 and 1996.The answer is that they were thinking primarily of the Brazilian economy, which was booming back in 2007, when it got the FIFA and decided to go for the Olympics. The country was flush with opportunities, and everyone wanted to ride the wave. But it turns out a country’s economy is not necessarily a good predictor of its future capabilities. Since 2007, Brazil’s economy has collapsed, causing a number of complicating factors, not the least of which is that the government had to make up for millions of dollars in private investment that did not come through. Huge amounts of money that the country doesn’t have were thrown at the problem of preparing for the FIFA, at the expense of much-need social support programs. That, in turn, has led to sometimes violent protests.Brazil’s GDP was growing at 6 percent when the country was assigned the FIFA and Olympics in 2007, but it dipped below zero in 2009 and is now growing at a relatively sluggish pace. Google graphic from World Bank data “The criticism is, we could have done without the stadium in Manaus and other stadiums in small cities,” Paul Setero, director of the Brazil institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told International Business Times. “FIFA [the world soccer governing body] told Brazil it should have only offered eight stadiums, but it was Brazil’s initiative to offer 12 because Brazil is the country of soccer and in 2007 the economy was going pretty well.”In the mid-2000s, Brazilians had every reason to think the country could host both the FIFA and the Olympics. Then, at the end of 2008, after Brazil was awarded the Cup and was one year into its bid to host the Olympics, the economy collapsed.

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