Rio Olympics present golden opportunity to banish World Cup humiliation
Brazil will consider the 2016 event as a chance to restore national pride after this failure
Fans at the FIFA Fan Fest in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
My suspicion is the only German not smiling after Brazil went belly up in Belo Horizonte was Thomas Bach. Less than one year into his presidency of the International Olympic Committee and Bach now finds himself fronting an escalating battle against time, apathy, ticket touts and even more enormously expensive white elephants.
No one said it would be easy. No country has ever hosted the World Cup and the Olympics in succession, and for good reason. They don’t wait four years between one World Cup and the next, and likewise the Olympics, just so everyone involved can gather their collective breath: in some cases four years is not nearly long enough. For Brazil, or at least Rio, the turnaround is now just over two years. Or 755 days, to be exact.
The people who run these shows like to point out an important difference between the World Cup and the Olympics: the World Cup is awarded to a country, and the Olympics are awarded to a city. Although in financial terms there is no difference at all. Brazil is already rounding up the cost of hosting the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics into one neat bundle: €18 billion and counting. That’s because whether it’s a country or a city, once the costs start accelerating the government, and the people, are left to pay.
For Brazil the exact impact of their team’s 7-1 defeat to Germany on Tuesday night is still unclear. Although BBC’s Newsnight seemed pretty clear about it in the immediate aftermath, going live to Rio where their man on the ground spoke of a “deep, elongated post
mortem” and a feeling that “the nation has died”.
Brazilians tend to remember defeat more than victory, especially their last World Cup defeat at home to Uruguay in the 1950 final. Their goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa was never allowed to forget. “The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years imprisonment,” said Barbosa, shortly before his death in 2000. “But I have been paying, for something I’m not even responsible, for 50 years.”
There are those who believe the Brazilian team had it coming and that the entire tournament has been built on secrets and lies. Once the cost-cutting became absolutely necessary, most of the so-called legacy projects – particularly public transport – were unceremoniously abandoned. Stadium costs went three times over budget, even with the realisation that several of them were white elephants in the making. Of course all that would be forgotten once Brazil were crowned World Cup champions before Germany revealed the truth behind that.