Brazil World Cup poor feel football trampling social needs

An Amazon forest chief marches with hundreds of native people alongside slum workers in Brazil. Brazilian police mounted on horseback deploy to keep anti-World Cup protesters in order. Two week from kick-off, in the capital Brasilia, organisers are not seeing optimum conditions. The motto on Brazil’s flag is ‘Order and Progress’, but poverty in this major emerging economic power is distracting media attention away from the upcoming football event. The same message is going around in different forms — shanty-town graffiti and demonstrators’ slogans condemn splurging on football while not enough is spent on social care. A middle class pensioner agreed: “I think the World Cup should have been left for another time when the country was really in condition to host it. I think it is wrong for them to be spending billions on the World Cup.” The sporting mega-event is shining a light on social demands people have been pleading for increasingly for years. Incomes have seen the rise in the cost of living tear away from them, while lack of funding has also eaten away at the provision and quality of health, education and other public infrastructure. One protester said: “There are no health services in the region. We don’t have a basic doctor’s surgery or a hospital. They chose not to spend money on health or education, but on construction like this, making our housing problems worse.” Brazil counts on spending the equivalent of 11 billion euros on the World Cup. Public support for it has collapsed from 80 percent in 2007 to below half the population today. More than half say they expect the extravaganza to harm the economy rather than stimulate it. Even the projected earnings, which are rarely minimised, fall short of the cost estimate so far. Foreign tourism is forecast to generate 1.9 billion euros of income from 600,000 visitors, while the accountants figure on three million Brazilians spending nearly six billion euros during the event. Highly promoted similar events in the recent past proved to be seriously over-hyped and over-valued, notably in South Africa. Brazilians love their national sport and venerate their team, yet the players these days are riding around in a coach liberally plastered with protest stickers, and finding angry poor people wherever they go.