When global media were impatiently counting days for delayed stadium deliveries, few could expect that preparation fears will instantly be replaced with millions taking into the streets. As Brazilian team prepares to win over Spain, polls show that protesters enjoy 80% support from the population, while the president went under 30% within days.
6 years ago, when Sepp Blatter announced that Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup, enthusiasm was high. Even despite the fact that they were the only candidate. New roads, airports, stadiums were to bring a boost to the economy and did. But came at a price that is now being questioned more and more.
According to initial declarations, stadia were to be built with private funding. This seems reasonable, since Brazilian league represents high level on the pitch and biggest clubs have millions of declared fans. Not to mention the rapidly growing event market in this nearly 200-million population.
And yet the privately funded stadia are ones least discussed now, being a minority. Largest projects in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro were financed entirely by taxpayers and in very controversial ways. Legendary Maracanã proved overpaid and only after delivery transferred to private operators. To make it more controversial, operators also benefited from the delivery itself – Odebrecht and IMX were earlier paid for construction and financial feasibility study, respectively, earning money from the public before receiving the stadium for the next 35 years.
In the meantime citizens of Rio de Janeiro weren't equally lucky – locals were evicted from their homes around the stadium, many of them native Indians, while the indigenous museum at Maracana was closed and leisure projects around the stadium shrunk. Ironically, Maracana had its concrete bowl preserved, despite the bowl not being of historical importance, while its cultural heritage was compromised, despite being legally protected. From now on the stadium is a private event arena rather than the heart of Brazilian football.
While leading companies working on the projects are doing well, many citizens feel left out and excluded. Not only from the Confederations Cup, also domestic league tickets went severely up, effectively pricing out some people. And finally, the symbolic spark that started a flame days back – a 20 cent increase in public transport fares. In a country with taxes set very high and benefits considered available mostly for the upper classes, many people said 'enough' and took to the streets.
Initially Brazilian authorities were trying to force people off the streets while informing media of only minor demonstrations. This policy further increased the outrage – as if social issues were to be swept under the rug, not to spoil the fun for FIFA representatives and relatively few locals who could afford match tickets. Every day brings new demonstrations in various cities of Brazil and the total number of participants may be well above 1.5 million, minutes before another protest begins in Rio.
This number may not represent even 1% of the population, but recent polls for Folha newspaper (June 28) show that 8 out of 10 Brazilians support the protests, even despite several demonstrations ending in full-scale riots. At the same time support for president Dilma Rousseff almost halved since the Confederations Cup began (30% to 57%). And already then it was at 57%, visibly lower than in March (65%). Now only one out of three Brazilians is still with her – and the numbers are continuing to go down despite promises of greater spending on public infrastructure.
No wonder Rousseff isn't expected to attend tonight's final, due to fears of further inciting people with public appearances. Especially that she was jeered already at the opening game.
Football isn't her biggest problem now, anyway. Sao Paulo, which promised lower ticket prices for public transport to ease the outrage, is on the brink of insolvency because of that move. Central authorities are said to consider tax relief to keep the nearly-20-million metropolis afloat.
Tonight's final outcome of the Confed Cup isn't irrelevant, though. National side's good performances is what keeps some people in better moods and away from the streets. Should the team be eliminated in previous rounds, atmosphere ahead of tonight may have been much worse.