Against daunting odds — the slow pace of construction, demonstrations by displaced slum dwellers, long distances, impenetrable traffic and the collapse of one hastily built overpass — Brazil pulled off what is universally and rightly regarded as a successful soccer World Cup.
The competition was watched by record crowds worldwide, including a 100 percent increase in U.S. viewership over the last World Cup.
It is not too much to say that the fate of the government of President Dilma Rousseff, who faces an election in October, was riding on Brazil being able to pull off a major international sporting event. Then, too, there is the matter of paying the $14 billion-plus cost of hosting the cup, but Brazil is a wealthy nation and, besides, it shares South America’s relaxed attitude about carrying large amounts of debt.
Few of the brick-and-mortar benefits from the cup materialized and Brazil, which fancies itself the natural home of soccer, must still deal with the lingering aftereffects of its 7-1 humiliation at the hands of eventual winner Germany.
However, there looms on the horizon an even larger event to take Brazilians’ minds off that sporting catastrophe. Brazil will play host to the 2016 Summer Olympics, an event that will dwarf the World Cup in size and cost.
Before the World Cup there were riots by Brazilians, who felt the money could be better spent, for example, on schools and housing. Having been deprived of promised civic benefits once, it’s hard to imagine Brazilians exhibiting similar forbearance for the Summer Olympics.
Miracles do happen; the fact that Brazil pulled off the World Cup was one, but maybe a second one is too much to ask for.