The draw for the 32 participants in the 2014 World Cup will be held December 6 in Brazil, the host country responsible for the massive event that will begin just over six months from now at twelve venues across the country. Claims that FIFA, the governing body of international football (soccer to us in the USA), somehow conspired to rig the draw in order to help and harm certain countries will surprise no one, as they seem to follow inevitably from every World Cup draw.  The seven top-ranked teams in the world as of the October 2013 FIFA ratings, plus the host team, will comprise the eight teams in the seeded pool. Suffice to say that the USA would prefer to be in Switzerland’s four-team group rather than in Spain’s group.

Certainly, we would all agree that rigging the process for determining the placement of teams in the various groups of competitors, if such a thing ever happened, would be highly unethical.  But a much more basic question related to ethics should be directed toward FIFA and the politicians of Brazil:  namely, is it right to hold the world’s most important sporting event in a country with such documented significant economic and logistical challenges?  Will money that could be used to combat some of the many substantial problems facing Brazilians instead be spent on the World Cup?  Who will really profit from the World Cup in Brazil?

For a provocative look at the ethical and practical issues surrounding Brazil and the 2014 World Cup, please see this article. One would of course hope that the “major social cleansing” forecast by some does not come to fruition, but as this is written, thousands of poor people already have been displaced through forced removals related to construction efforts for the World Cup.

As far as who will profit, it appears that local and foreign investors will do just fine as a result of their financial involvement with the World Cup.  This point probably was not what the Brazilian politicians emphasized to the people of Brazil when the country was bidding for the opportunity to host the event.  In fact, this article claims that the costs to Brazil are skyrocketing because of “arrangements” between private companies and local politicians. The author leaves it to our imaginations to conclude what those arrangements might involve.

Here is another interesting article discussing many of the issues related to Brazil and the 2014 World Cup. I found the points made by Romario, a former world-class player for Brazil, particularly instructive and disturbing. I would have expected a former athlete to discuss the issues from the perspective of what a significant competitive advantage the host nation enjoys in this event. When you read the article, you’ll see this is far from Romario’s perspective.

In addition, the recent construction accident costing the lives of two workers at a World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo has caused many to question whether safety precautions are being neglected in the rush to complete a massive amount of work in time to meet FIFA deadlines.  It should be noted that the construction company in charge of the project maintains that all safety procedures have been followed throughout the course of the project.

This article is somewhat dated, but contains interesting information about the economic effects of the World Cup and the Olympics on previous host countries.  It would appear that these events have not been particularly beneficial to a nation’s economy, and again one wonders what realistic opportunity Brazil has to come through the 2014 World Cup (and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which it also is scheduled to host) in decent shape.

For the vast majority of the world’s countries, the World Cup exceeds all other sporting events in terms of interest generated.  It is unfortunate that an event of this stature cannot simply be celebrated for the incredible athleticism, passion and skills on display, but Brazil’s challenges apart from soccer are not going away any time soon

Considerable attention will be focused on ethical questions such as who is really profiting from this event, and whether actual human suffering could have been alleviated at least somewhat through funding that instead went to the production of the World Cup.

Soccer is often touted metaphorically as the ultimate bridge between different cultures. I will close this week’s posting with a quote from the first article linked above regarding an actual bridge being built for the World Cup:

The projected pedestrian bridge, with a conveyor belt, air conditioning, and a $100 million price tag, would ferry fans from the matches to the center of Pelourinho, bypassing poor areas below. “Meanwhile, the mortals underneath will receive the empty cans and the banana peels,” says Melo, wondering how the cash-strapped city will maintain such a costly bridge.

Please contact me at mgilleran@scu.edu with any comments.  Thanks.

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