The myths of the Brazil World Cup


If you are following all the attention Brazil is getting for the World Cup, no doubt you have come across two major stories besides football, samba and stunning beaches: the cost of the tournament and the general unrest in the streets.


As with any stereotype about Brazilian flamboyance, it is important to separate facts from fiction.

One of the most common misconceptions about the 2014 World Cup is that the budget was almost entirely spent on building arenas. This is not true.

The budget allocated to the World Cup was US$13.3 billion divided in thirds on building or renovating stadiums; airports and infrastructure projects; and urban mobility and transport.

The real question now is if the investment in much needed infrastructure will continue after the tournament is over.

Another story frequently repeated is that the federal government diverted funds away from education to build the World Cup.

By making a very simple calculation, it is possible to verify that the seven year spending for preparing the World Cup is proportional to only one month of the federal education budget.

Even so, half of the money used for building the arenas did not come from state coffers but from the Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES).

Therefore, the loans for the private sector will be paid back with interest to the Bank.

The pressing issue here is not so much the loan, but the powerful construction companies and how they receive preferential treatment for BNDES funds.

Finally, many journalists have said that Brazilians are extremely unhappy with the World Cup.

This is partially true. Trade unions, the homeless workers movement (MTST) and many other progressive groups have indeed organised protests highlighting issues such as workers´ rights, the need for housing and condemning human rights violations.

Furthermore, there is a general discontent with the profit-making FIFA and how it has kept the country hostage to its ludicrous demands.

For example, there is a direct connection between the pressure to complete the arenas and the death of ten construction workers.

Although the recent protests were not nearly as large as the demonstrations seen in June last year, repression orchestrated by state governors in Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, deploying the military police, has been as brutal as ever.

That’s the real focus of so much unrest - not football.

In fact, the “beautiful game” has been celebrated as ever on the stunning beaches of Brazil, with lots of samba in the background.