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Building Brazil

Building Brazil through Sports: Is it Worth the Cost?

Bárbara Schausteck de Almeida (AWF Scholar) and Prof. Jay Coakley (Honorary Fellow, University of Chichester)

22nd April 2013, University of Chichester

The third event in the AWF 2013 Seminar Series looked toward Brazil as the location for the next two mega sport events (MSE’s) that are to occur in 2014 (FIFA World Cup) and 2016 (Olympic and Paralympic Games). Bárbara Schausteck de Almeida (AWF Scholar) and Prof. Jay Coakley (Honorary Fellow, University of Chichester) gave a critique of the bidding and legacies associated with these MSE’s. The presentation also highlighted the role the AWF aims to provide in allowing for the development of female scholars in sport and was the culmination of research Bárbara was conducting during her eight-month visit to the University of Chichester.

Bárbara opened the presentation by giving a brief insight into her PhD research regarding bidding for MSE’s, in particular how and why Brazil has secured the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This information has been facilitated using references at the University of Chichester during her eight month study visit. Jay added how MSE’s had been predominantly based in Northern and Western countries over time. The emergence of the ‘global South’ as economic and cultural forces has meant a greater recognition of MSE’s as symbolic images of strength and power. However, this has also meant catering to the needs and demands of the IOC and FIFA. Jay was particularly interested in how Brazil would be broadcast by Western media, and whether the ‘real’ Brazil would be shown to the world.

The costs for both Brazilian MSE’s were referenced via official documents such as government bid reports. In total, nearly £18 billion has been set aside for the period 2007-2016. Brazil’s annual budget is £690 billion, so this figure does not seem much of a cost. Public investment totals £8.5 billion for urban improvements, stadiums, airports and security for example, but these are all areas that would be soon privatised, highlighting the powerful economic politics involved. Using football stadiums to be built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as an example, Bárbara firstly outlined the equivalent cost of hundreds of schools, prisons, hospitals and transport infrastructure such as subways that could be built; and secondly the size of the stadiums in relation to the areas of Brazil they would be located. 50,000-seater stadiums are to be built in areas whereby no local team is in the top two Brazilian football divisions. These examples question not only any claims for a potential legacy, but also critiques the priorities of a growing economic superpower.


Regarding the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, just 5% of investment is private and the areas of Rio de Janeiro where the majority of the events will take place are in areas of highest human development. Unlike London 2012 that seeks to rejuvenate an area of London, Rio has not used re-generation as a legacy focal point. It will be interesting to see the impact of private company’s post-2016 and how much impact they will have for their 5% investment.

In Jay’s part of the presentation, he added to discussions regarding the neoliberal culture and flow of capital that looks to characterise the forthcoming Brazilian MSE’s. By favouring investment in giant sports stadia that may only be used up to twenty times a year (if presided in by a sports team) by relatively richer people, local community centres and facilities for general use by all sections of the neighbourhood are overlooked, despite the fact that hundreds could be built with the money side-lined for one sports stadium. Jay stated: “The capital expenditures for this infrastructure are some of the largest expenditures Brazil has ever done, yet most of the people will not get to use them”.

The fundamental argument to critique is who are the powerful people and groups making the bids for these investments, and why. Examples of favelas being torn down for real-estate purposes and public facilities such as swimming pools being turned into car-parks for the major stadiums were presented as neoliberal agendas through sport. This is often because those who reside in the favelas or poorer communities do not have a voice on the bidding and government committees and thus struggle to oppose the measures.

Furthermore, it is common when researching MSE’s to find that the groups who may formulate a bid are not democratically elected, are often not held accountable, and in some cases do not even exist in contemporary times. Thus it is often the governments – who themselves may not have been in power when MSE’s are won – who have to deal with the consequences. One consequence may be the pressures to complete infrastructure on time. The negative stereotypes associated with not finishing building work were seen with the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Research has shown that neo-colonialist tendencies may emerge whereby Northern and Western companies are contracted to aid or finish this work. Of course, links, networks and power are resulting determinants of this.

Bárbara and Jay both stated how there is limited analysis of the planning, structure and monitoring of MSE’s: “How is the public being served by this expenditure apart from a few good days? Sport is assumed as good. The overall costs and benefits are gradually being examined critically”.

Jay concluded with reflections on MSE research and monitoring and evaluation by stating “there is not one study to show an increase in participation post the MSE”. Indeed, early research has seen the initial impact of London 2012 has already started to plateau to figures seen before 2012. Bárbara’s future research will help to understand whether discourse expectations are being repeated in Brazil, and also raise political and academic awareness based on past MSE’s.

Dr Elizabeth Pike (AWF Chair) thanked Bárbara and Jay and invited the audience of sixty students, doctoral students, and current and former staff to ask questions.

Ian Hamilton (Co-ordinator for Sport & Fitness Management, University of Chichester) questioned the domestic Paralympic investment in Brazil and whether the perceived success of the London 2012 Paralympics was to continue in Rio in 2016. Bárbara responded that disability is not a cultural issue in Brazil, in similarity to gender. Jay queried the impact of London 2012 itself, and whether structural changes were occurring (such as greater access to venues and participation) or just an emotional change. Obviously, both are needed, but the latter may not necessarily lead to greater advances for disabled athletes.

Jordan Matthews (AWF Clerk) asked why the 5% of private investment was so low for Rio 2016. Both Bárbara and Jay responded that many companies will have small stakes in different ventures. Thus when the growth of the private ventures inevitably occurs, the income generated also expands. Jordan commented that the same may be seen to be occurring post-London 2012 with the awarding of the Olympic stadium to West Ham United Football Club, despite large amounts of public investment.