Mega-events may get less ambitious as Brazil counts World Cup costs

admin   •   June 13, 2014   •   2335

National soccer players from Brazil (L) and Croatia enter the stadium before their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/PAULO WHITAKER

(Reuters) – Plagued by delays and opposition at home, the World Cup in Brazil might be a turning point for sporting mega-events, forcing soccer’s governing body and the International Olympic Committee to accept less ambitious bids to reduce the risk of public backlash.

Described by Brazil’s government as “the Cup to end all Cups,” the tournament kicked off on Thursday to a backdrop of controversy and concern.

The world soccer organization, FIFA, is facing corruption allegations over how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup as well as match-fixing claims, fewer countries are keen to host big events and even some sponsors are starting to question the “halo effect” of associating with them.

Ever since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, which set the gold standard, large sporting events have been increasingly used to drive infrastructure projects and try to regenerate cities.

Sports economists and sources inside FIFA say Brazil, the most expensive World Cup ever at an estimated cost of $11.3 billion, has shown both the limits and the risks of this model.

Although the nature of the bidding process means countries able to splurge on state-of-the-art stadiums will still attract support, there is a growing sense among the populations of cities and nations considering being hosts for major sporting events that bigger is not always better.

“I think we are at a turning point in the history of mega-events and I think the turning point will lead to a very much reduced ambition towards infrastructure connected with these events,” said Wolfgang Maennig, a professor at Hamburg University who specializes in sports economics.

For Maennig, who won Olympic gold at Seoul 1988 as a German rower, big sporting events have become so political and controversial they risk losing both corporate sponsors and countries willing to host them.

He points to the IOC’s difficulty in finding a country to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics. Germany’s Munich and Switzerland’s St. Moritz-Davos both withdrew planned bids when people in the two places voted ‘no’ in referendums, leaving the IOC scrambling for a suitable candidate.

In Brazil, which will also host the 2016 Olympics, protests and strikes have dominated the public mood since millions took to the streets during a World Cup warm-up last June to bemoan poor public services.

“The positive to be taken out of Brazil is that we have learnt from it and will do things differently next time,” one FIFA source said. The source added that FIFA should have insisted that Brazil cut the number of host cities from 12, which would have reduced the number of potential problems with unfinished infrastructure, and made good on the threat to move games if venues weren’t quite ready for prime time.

Soccer’s European body UEFA has already got the message – reducing the burden on any one country for its European Championship, with the 2020 tournament to be played in 13 cities across Europe.

FLAT-OUT NERVOUS

For sponsors the equation may be changing too, as negative headlines have swelled from the usual trickle to a flood.

Sponsors took the rare decision to speak out on the corruption probe into Qatar’s bid, with Adidas saying the negative debate around FIFA “is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.” Coca-Cola was similarly outspoken.

“The minute soccer moves from the sports pages to the political pages I think sponsors have to get concerned because their message is getting crowded,” said David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.

“People are flat-out nervous,” he said. “The last thing you can afford when you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars into a global sports opportunity is to have to cross your fingers and hope for it to turn out alright.”

Carter said the price FIFA commands from sponsors was at risk of going down if they saw less benefit from being directly connected with FIFA and the World Cup. Still, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon given that sponsorship deals are usually organized over many tournaments – Adidas for example has signed up as a FIFA sponsor until 2030.

And the mega-events remain very healthy on some levels. For example, the prices for television rights have continued to rise with little sign of abating.

Sixty percent of Brazilians now think hosting the Cup is bad for Brazil, according to a recent poll, and thousands have marched nationwide carrying banners telling FIFA to “go home.”

Brazil may have exploded with street parties as its team won the opening game on Thursday but scattered violent protests were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the cost of the tournament.

One source working at a leading World Cup sponsor said the firm had been forced to change its marketing strategy in response to public negativity surrounding this year’s event.

However, Andrew Sneyd, an executive at World Cup sponsor Budweiser responsible formarketing, was more upbeat on Brazil, saying it was Budweiser’s largest campaign to date and no adjustments had been made in response to local opposition.

CHANGE NOT EASY

Changing the way these events are structured is not easy.

In countries other than the most advanced soccer economies like Britain or Germany, stadiums have to be built and infrastructure improved to put on events like the World Cup.

The challenge is how to make them less ambitious and less controversial without excluding developing nations who almost always need to invest heavily to get venues up to standard.

A different FIFA source said there was a growing awareness of the social and economic responsibility that came with putting on the World Cup but that the bidding process remained one of faith – you have to trust the country chosen will deliver on its promises.

Still, the tide seems to be turning because of growing popular resistance to huge spending on sporting events.

For Maennig the answer lies in bids that are more collaborative with the local population.

“I am pushing my home city Berlin to have a completely different Olympic bid (for 2024) by asking residents to participate in an Olympic concept they would be in favor of,” he said.

(Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Martin Howell)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro says vaccine will be free and non-mandatory

Marje Pelayo   •   December 9, 2020

President Jair Bolsonaro

BRAZIL — President Jair Bolsonaro said vaccines for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be free of charge and non-mandatory for the whole population of Brazil after it acquires certification from regulatory agency ANVISA. 

“We will protect the population by respecting their freedom, and not using it for political purposes, putting their health at risk because of personal gains,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter on Tuesday (December 8).

The Ministry of Economy assured that there will be no shortage of resources and every Brazilian will be attended to. 

“Once certified by @anvisa_oficial (scientific guidelines and legal precepts), @govbr will offer the vaccine to all, free of charge and not mandatory,” President Bolsonaro added.

Brazil ranks third among countries in the world with the highest number of COVID-19 infections after registering more than 6.6 million cases.

The South American country also records the second heaviest death toll worldwide with more than 177,000. MNP / Beth Pilares

PH envoy to Brazil could face charges for staff abuse

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2020

Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. on Wednesday (October 28) vowed to address ‘to the fullest extent of the law’  the incidents of physical abuse by former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro against her household staff.

In a series of tweets, Locsin said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be “firm in meting out the appropriate sanctions and administrative or criminal charges” on the former envoy if results of the investigation on the matter would demand as such.

Locsin broke the news of Mauro’s recall from post on Monday (October 26).

The incident of physical abuse by Mauro against her staff was aired over Brazilian news outlet GloboNews with dates listed on the video footage as taken in March, August and October this year.

As the Philippine Ambassador to Brazil, Mauro also held concurrent jurisdiction over Colombia and Venezuela.

READ: PH envoy to Brazil recalled over alleged maltreatment of staff — DFA

DA lifts temporary ban on mechanically deboned poultry meat from Brazil

Marje Pelayo   •   September 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced Monday (September 7) that it is partially lifting the temporary importation ban on mechanically deboned poultry meat (MDM) from Brazil.

This, after the agency conducted a review of the measure based on available information provided by Brazilian authorities. 

The Brazilian government submitted documentary requirements ensuring the strict implementation of plans for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prevention, infection control and occupational safety and health relative to the operations of foreign meat establishments. 

Agriculture Secretary William Dar clarified however, that the lifting of the temporary import ban only applies to  foreign meat establishments without a single worker that is COVID-19 positive.

The importation must be accompanied by a veterinary health certificate which proves that the meat was handled and processed in facilities with functional food safety management system and where stringent hygiene and sanitation measures are practiced. 

Likewise, the poultry products must carry a safe handling label and all importation must be for the sole use of an accredited meat processor. 

The DA warned that all shipments into the country that do not comply with the above conditions shall be confiscated.

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