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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

World Cup: The Insanity of Hosting "Mega-Events" Exposed in Brazil

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 11:59 AM

When Brazil's national soccer team lost on home turf to Uruguay in 1950, it was, without exaggeration, described as that nation's Hiroshima.

So, perhaps it's for the best that some other nation hasn't suffered a calamity horrific enough to serve as an apt comparison for what happened to Brazil yesterday.

The Seleção was beaten by a ruthlessly efficient German squad, 7-1. But "beaten" doesn't begin to tell the tale. The Germans scored three times in 70-odd seconds. They led at half by the gaudy tally of 5-0. It was a great and terrible display and, unlike the Hiroshima of 1950, it unfolded in real time, for all the world to see. The soul of a nation whose self-identity is alarmingly intertwined with soccer excellence was stamped on, with a cleated boot.

Images of Brazilian men and women wailing with the agony usually reserved for a child's funeral went viral. The Germans, after all, invented the term "schadenfreude."

We can question the centrality of soccer in Brazilian life. But that's mean-spirited and petty. More important is the cost of soccer in Brazilian life. Infrastructure costs for this four-week World Cup party are an estimated $11.3 billion.It's their party and they'll cry if they want to. You would cry too, if it happened to you.

See Also: The Insanity of Hosting Mega-Events

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You might also vote out the government.

By Brazilian standards, the national side that advanced to the semifinals to be eviscerated by Germany was a weak one. Being the host nation -- and the perks that go with it -- helped greatly. Until it didn't. 

Few of us can imagine the pain of national disgrace, albeit one that doesn't involve the Germans marching beneath your Arc but over your soccer team. But we can run a cost-benefits analysis of hosting a "mega-event" like the World Cup.

Bringing joy to a soccer-obsessed nation is something of an intangible cost. So is boosting your ruling regime by coasting on the goodwill of a sixth World Cup title. But $11.3 billion adds up. And, now, Brazilian voters are in a bad mood. Now they may be more inclined to do the math.

The local connection, of course, comes via this city's gambit to host the 2024 Olympics (our region will host Super Bowl 50 next year, too). We are not an Olympic-obsessed city or a Super Bowl-obsessed region. A mega-event here would have to make sense financially on its own. Images of weeping San Franciscans will, Godwilling, never dot the internet. But images of our city shelling out mega-bucks to host a fleeting mega-event likely will.

The sun did rise in Brazil today. It shows over Cristo Redentor's outstretched arms. Cristo is still Redentoring. Life goes on.

But it's a starker life and a more joyless existence. And, if any silver linings can be gleaned, hopefully the sun has set on an era of grotesque fiscal irresponsibility.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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