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

admin   •   June 13, 2014   •   2253

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)

Bolsonaro vetos law on obligatory face masks in Brazil

UNTV News   •   July 10, 2020

Digital: PART MUST COURTESY BRAZIL PRESIDENCY.

President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday (July 3) vetoed parts of a law that would have made wearing a face mask obligatory in enclosed spaces where large groups gather, as swathes of Brazil struggle to tame new infections of the coronavirus.

“Today there were various vetoes for legislation that spoke of the obligatory use of face masks, including inside the home. I vetoed (them). No one is going to enter a home and give a fine. I could also have got a fine because I am now without a mask,” he said.

Bolsonaro has regularly flouted social distancing guidelines advised by most health experts, shaking hands and embracing supporters. He has said publicly that his past as an athlete makes him immune to the worst symptoms of the virus.

He has also been widely criticised by health experts for downplaying the severity of the virus which he has dismissed as just “a little flu.” Bolsonaro has pressured governors and mayors for months to reverse lockdown measures and reopen the economy.

Bolsonaro’s veto comes as Brazil nears 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday. The virus continues to ravage Latin America’s largest country even as cities reopen bars, restaurants and gyms sparking fears infections will keep rising.

Brazil has the world’s second largest outbreak after the United States and the virus has killed over 60,000 people in the country.

In Rio alone, more than 6,600 people have died of COVID-19 in the past four months. Only 14 countries in the world have a death toll higher than the city. Intensive care units in public hospitals are at 70% capacity.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and worst-hit city, is expected to open bars and restaurants next week. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergio Queiroz, Leonardo Benassatto, Pablo Garcia, Leandra Camera, Paul Vieira)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro confirms postive coronavirus diagnosis

UNTV News   •   July 8, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday (July 7) he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding in a television interview that he was in good health despite running a fever.

The right-wing populist, who has played down the severity of the virus which he has called a “little flu,” took the test on Monday after developing symptoms.

In the interview broadcast on state-run TV Brasil, Bolsonaro said he began feeling ill on Sunday (July 5) and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19.

“It started on Sunday (July 5) with a certain feeling of unwell that worsened during the day on Monday (July 6), with malaise, tiredness, a bit of muscle pain and a fever that reached 38 degrees in the late afternoon. I then thought that with these symptoms, and with the presidency’s medic (believing it to be) a possible COVID-19 infection, I did a CT scan at the armed forces hospital here in Brasilia. And the lungs were clear,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak behind the United States. Latin America’s largest country has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. Bolsonaro has also railed against social distancing rules supported by the World Health Organization.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations. Pictures showed neither wearing a mask.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter on Monday (July 6) that the ambassador had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and the president’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. The ambassador had no symptoms, but would undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said. (REUTERS)

Brazil reports over 30,000 new COVID-19 cases as total rises over 1.34 million

UNTV News   •   June 29, 2020

Brazil on Sunday reported 30,476 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the national count to 1,344,143, as the coronavirus epidemic continues to rage across the country.

In the last 24 hours, 552 daily deaths from COVID-19 were reported, raising the death toll to 57,622, the Brazilian Health Ministry said in its daily report.

Of those infected, 733,848 have recovered from the virus, the ministry added.

The country’s most populous state of Sao Paulo has been the most heavily affected by the disease, with 271,737 cases and 14,338 deaths, followed by Rio de Janeiro, with 111,298 cases and 9,819 deaths.

After confirming its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 26, Brazil now has the second-highest number of cases and the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States.

Local experts said that while the total number of confirmed cases in Brazil is still lower than the U.S., the severity and economic toll that the pandemic is taking on the country is believed to exceed that of the United States.

Though Brazil’s population of 200 million is less than two-thirds of that of the U.S., the South American country is now seeing more than twice as many new confirmed cases per million people a day as there are in the U.S.

The Brazilian economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic, with the International Monetary Fund’s growth forecast for Brazil this year falling from -5.3 percent to -9.1 percent.

Despite the rising case numbers, Rio de Janeiro on Saturday reopened stores, hairdressing shops and beauty saloons after more than 100 days of shutdown, as the country looks to revive its economy. (Reuters)

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