Professor Christopher Gaffney checks in again from Brazil…
The Soccerex Global Convention was held last week in the Copacabana Fort, attached to the Sofitel in Rio de Janeiro. The title of the convention, Uniting the Football World, made as much sense as FIFA’s slogan, For the Good of the Game. The world of football is huge, as big as the world itself, but we know what they meant: Bringing together people who are in the business of football.
Get ready for World Cup 2014.
Soccerex is the biggest football business event of the year, dwarfing Expo Estádio, which has also been held in Rio the past two years. The entry fee to Soccerex was a tidy ₤800. It will be held in Rio every November through 2013.
I’m writing about Soccerex because it gives deep insight into the precarious and bordering-on corrupt state of Brazilian football, the preparedness of Rio for mega-events, and the general absurdities that are pertaining in the run up to 2014.
Let’s begin with the World Cup.
Only five of the twelve host cities were represented at Soccerex: Rio de Janiero, Belo Horizonte. São Paulo, Porto Alegre, and Salvador da Bahia. Of the five, only Belo Horizonte had a thoroughly professional team in place to answer questions about the Minerão stadium project. (A project that, surprisingly, is not being financed by the city government but rather by a Public-Private-Partnership).
The Minerão project is not without its problems, but the team they sent to attend media inquiries were willing and able to respond to some difficult questions and have sent along information regarding the project.
São Paulo’s booth was lovely, but as we know, there is currently no stadium project underway for Brazil’s biggest city and main point of entry.
Let me repeat that. São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, does not have a stadium project for 2014….yet.
The idea is that Corinthians are going to build a new stadium, but ground is closer to exploding than breaking, literally.
Well, there is a Petrobras gas pipeline that runs through the site. Surely São Paulo will have a stadium for the World Cup. Raquel Rolink, a well-known Brazilian urbanist and UN delegate, has suggested that São Paulo’s Morumbi project was not sufficiently expensive to allow for FIFA to gain monies from and thus was dropped from consideration.
There is also the likelihood that Ricardo Teixeira, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation is working with his longtime confidante Andre Sanchez, president of Corinthans, who is assumed to be next in line for the CBf presidency should Teixeira head for Switzerland and FIFA House to escape the recent corruption claims.
Salvador had a touching video of the Novo Fonte Nova, some Bahianas dressed up in traditional garb, but nothing concrete to offer.
Porto Alegre had set up a small room that looked like place to open a bank account: not very inviting and clearly targeting a limited audience. The Beira-Rio project is one of the few that is being financed by a private entity (Internacional F.C.) and as a result is the stadium project with the lowest cost and perhaps greatest post-Cup use value.
The big show, of course, was reserved for Rio and the Novo Maracanã project. The show was led by the mono-lingual state secretary for tourism and leisure, Marcia Lins, who stood proudly over the stadium model showing the unquestioning media all of the “improvements” that would be made to the no-longer-so-colossal stadium.
Let’s remember that the Maracanã underwent hundreds of millions of dollars of reforms from 2005-2007 to “prepare” it for the Pan American games. All of those reforms have just been blasted through to get started on the “facelift” the 60-year-old ground will get for 2014. It’s an expensive lift. A project that was projected to cost R$500 million in May of 2009, jumped to R$709 million one year later – without actually doing any work!
Imagine how much it is going to cost by the time 2013 and the Confederation Cup rolls around. There is no justification for this kind of expenditure of public money on stadiums that will be handed over to FIFA and the IOC for private profit.
Soccerex was a relatively small event in a small space. That doesn’t explain why there was almost no information about what was happening on a daily basis. The only way to get a schedule of events and talks was to download it to an ipad or iphone. There was nothing available in paper on the day of the event. Speakers changed rooms and times without warning. The press conference rooms were small and ill-prepared. The bathrooms were port-a-potties with no paper towels. Sure it’s a fort, but come on! For 800 pounds I would have expected more.
As I commented in my previous article, the 2014 Local Organizing Committee is headed by five people.
Ricardo Teixeira and the head and the other departments (as I was informed by the LOC press secretary) are: Strategic Planning and Operations Support (Joana Havelange), Operations (Ricardo Trade) and Communications (Rodrigo Paiva). What are the qualifications of these people to do what they do? Ms. Havelange is 33 years old. She will only report to her father. Let’s talk about him.
Ricardo Teixeira was named in the Andrew Jenning’s BBC report as a recipient of bribes paid out during the long running ISL – FIFA scandal.
The media in Brazil did some much-delayed back flips when it was revealed last week that it will be possible for Teixeira to direct all of the profits of the 2014 LOC to himself.
How? In order to register as a corporation, the 2014 LOC needed to have a real person as a partner (apparently). Teixeira was made a .01% owner of the World Cup yet was given the power to direct profits where he sees fit. This is already the first time that the head of the national football federation will be heading up the LOC. Now the head of both of those organizations has been accused (and not for the first time) of being on the happy end of bribery schemes and has put himself in a position to make hundreds of millions off of the World Cup that is being constructed and financed with pubic money.
The stadium projects will forcibly dislocate people from their homes. They will all be way over budget. The majority will be mono-functional structures that have no articulation with their urban environments. Transportation infrastructures will not attend to the demands and needs of the local context but will ram through neighborhoods to link the stadiums to tourist areas. Everything associated with the World Cup will be exempt from taxation, visas procedures, and regular fiscalization by any level of government. The documents and legal exemptions that Andrew Jennings highlights in his videos are already reality in Brazil.