The current raging debate in Brazil on the subject of hosting the FIFA World Cup, the second biggest sporting event on the planet after the Olympics, amid widespread poverty and social problems reminds me of a very popular “intellectualism-inducing” lament in India: “Why do we need to work on the space program when people don’t even have drinking water?”

The complaints in both the BRICS nations are ill-directed; for, they take refuge in irrational parallels.

Scrapping of a sporting event or the space program is not going to see elimination of poverty. It would merely induce an element of deprivation into those sections that are and were going to benefit from those two enterprises.

Poverty is a question of governance. What protesters should be protesting against is abysmal governance (service) delivery.

And if they indeed, for instance, want to use the example of FIFA World Cup, the focus of the protest should be on profligacy in management and not the hosting itself.

On its part, the Brazil government should take one on the chin and accept that if the country can host a vibrant League every year, it can surely host the World Cup too in the existing stadiums. Also, if the rising Brazilian economy can host an ever-burgeoning group of business travellers with the help of the existing hospitality infrastructure, it can definitely host the lower-rung football supporters too in the existing small hotels and service apartments. Or it may make some non-capital-dependent temporary arrangements.

Point being, saving the money spent on massive aesthetic – and prestige – programs would not stop the influx of money, which the Brazilian government/economy is keenly desirous of. It would just go a long way in maximising the ROI on the event.

All the same, once the government walks half the distance, the protesters have to drop their irrational anger towards mega projects and direct it where it makes a difference (governance delivery) and where it hurts (government rejection in elections).

And this is just a small example of how people anger and government action can be channelised for the common good of both the stakeholders – without resorting to symbolism of the extreme.


Author. Entrepreneur. Filmmaker. Journalist.

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