The fact that this has been entirely predictable for the best part of a decade doesn’t make it any less depressing.
This would almost seem too good to be true – if it weren’t for the involvement of the always ridiculous FIFA, a group of sharp-suited scumbags who sometimes pretend to be world football’s governing body.
Even for an organization that’s widely acknowledged to be as bent as the proverbial nine-bob note, yesterday’s dispatches from the frontline of mega-event organisation and international relations are pretty extraordinary. The BBC reports that FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke took time out of his busy schedule to complain about an excess of democracy in Brazil that’s inconveniently hindering his organisation’s plans to
get rich get even richer organise a World Cup in 2014. No, seriously:
“less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup,” he said [...] ”When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe [President Vladimir] Putin can do in 2018… that is easier for us organisers than a country such as Germany, where you have to negotiate at different levels.”
Obviously at this point Valcke really ought to be taken out the back and sent to the Great Stadium In The Sky, but I think from a certain angle there’s a way to read this as great news. After all, if Brazil’s managed to get FIFA riled up then it must be doing something right.
Interesting one, this. Last week, Brazil-based foreign correspondent Andrew Downie wrote a story for Time.com about the closure of the Engenhão, Brazil’s 2016 Olympic stadium, due to concerns over its structural integrity. Even if, like me, you’re already cynical about the whole Olympic-games-as-development idea, it’s a bit of an eye-opener.
The Pan Am Games’ João Havelange Stadium — now intended for the track-and-field competitions in the 2016 Olympics — has just been closed because it’s in danger of collapse. The velodrome is about to be knocked down because it isn’t up to Olympic standards. And a handful of other venues are being modernized or upgraded because they simply aren’t good enough.
But one the same day the article was published, he took to his personal blog to vent some frustration after Time editors wielded the scalpel claiming that, in his words, “it was too opinionated.” The uncensored version is slightly more emphatic.
“What I wanted to say loud and clear, and have been saying in conversation for years, is this: The people who ran Rio’s 2007 Pan American Games and who are organising the next Olympics are guilty of either deceit or bad planning or both.
For the Pan Ams they promised the city of Rio 54km of new metro, a light railway line and a new highway.
They did none of it.
The games were at least six times over budget and the justification was that the venues and facilities were expensive because they were of Olympic standard.
They are not.”
Unfollowed some extremelly disappointing presidents—
marina gasolina (@_MARINAGASOLINA) March 30, 2011
The big stories from the Brazilian news this week.
Just come across Gabriel Elizondo’s sharp piece on Aljazeera, in which he runs down how various Latin American governments have responded, or failed to respond, to recent events in Libya. The verdict on the Rousseff government is particularly damning:
Bottom line: Unlike every other country in Latin America, Brazil has some real diplomatic influence and leverage it could try to use in Libya and inside the halls of the U.N. But so far, the South American giant appears perfectly happy sitting on the sidelines as a quiet spectator.
Elizondo gently suggests that this might have something to do with the country’s massive trade surplus with the Arab world, something he explored in detail in an earlier piece on Brazil’s extensive business interests in Libya. Both articles are well worth a read.
“The Mineiros man one of Brazil’s smoothest political machines. They are a stubborn and clannish people with a sharp eye for the main chance; a man has to fight hard for a living among those scraggly hills”
- John dos Passos, Brazil on the Move (1963)
Not sure why, but something about Aécio Neves makes my skin crawl. Maybe it’s the uncanny resemblance to Jose Mourinho. More likely it’s because of the persistent allegations that he exerted undue influence on the press during his time as Governor of Minas Gerais – a post from which he stepped down last week.
Until recently Aécio – whose grandfather was elected President of Brazil but died before he could take office – had been considered a good outside bet for this year’s presidential election. But it seems a deal was done with current poll-leader José Serra to ensure that Neves wouldn’t challenge for the PSDB party’s candidacy this time around.
Instead, the Mineiro man will stand for the Brazilian Senate, in the hope of gaining greater national profile in anticipation of a presidential bid next time around. This, along with the rumour that still-phenomenally-popular Lula may consider running for a third term four years down the line, means that the 2014 election is already shaping up to be an interesting one, even before the 2010 race has properly begun.
There’s a great moment in one of the early series of Family Guy where Peter Griffin invents a ‘new type of flying machine’ with ten wings. “You know,” says baby Stewie, “I vaguely recall seeing footage somewhere of something exactly like this that, uh… leads me to believe this probably won’t work.”
I couldn’t help remember that scene when I read that Rio state governor Sergio Cabral is to hire former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani as a security advisor. The plan, it seems, is for Giuliani to advise the Rio authorities on a new ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy towards crime in the build up to the city’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games.
The New York Daily News carries a fine example of the kind of insight Giuliani has to offer, straight from the horse’s mouth:
“You have to pay attention to big and small things,” Giuliani told reporters after visiting a local shantytown. “And you also have to make the community safer, cleaner, healthier – plus educating the children.”
Right. Good. Thank you.
It seems unhelpful to suggest that this might be – at best – a complete waste of money and, at worst, an absolute disaster. But even leaving aside the fact that the supposed effectiveness of Giuliani’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy and ‘Broken Window Theory’ has been pretty comprehensively debunked, there is genuine cause for concern here.
In 2003, Giuliani Partners (“Integrity. Optimism. Courage. Preparedness. Communication. Accountability”) were paid $4.3 million to suggest solutions to Mexico city’s endemic crime problems.
So I suppose all we can do is hope that, this time around, Mister Giuliani’s incredible flying machine turns out to be more of a Hercules and a bit less of a Hindenburg.
There’s a good, long interview with President Lula that was published yesterday on FT.com. You can read the full transcript here, and here’s a bit of classic Lula charm to give you a taster:
FT: The Brics [Brazil, Russia, India & China] are four countries with their own, divergent interests. Do you think it’s a meaningful group?
PL: … It’s like when you meet a new girlfriend. If you only look at her defects and flaws, you’ll get nowhere. But if you look on the bright side you might end up getting married. And in politics, we have to know divergences exist among the Brics, and put them aside. Put the divergence aside and start working on the points that we can build together, and that’s how we will build a strong alliance among the Brics.
I think it’s fair to say that former Brazilian president José Sarney is a pretty unpopular man at the moment. Currently president of the Senate, he’s thought to be at the centre of a corruption scandal of epic proportions. Amongst other things, he is alleged to have channelled taxpayers’ money into covert salary increases for civil servants by allowing a number of ‘secret acts’ to pass the Senate. Six hundred and sixty-three of them, to be precise.
In protest, a new internet campaign is encouraging angry Brazilians to go on a greve de bigode, or moustache strike.
The Greve de Bigode Blog is asking contributors to send in photos of themselves with a moustache and a copy of the day’s newspaper, and to keep their facial hair until Sarney is removed from office or resigns. The website’s tag-line is ‘I’ll only get rid of mine when he gets rid of his’.
In the interests of equality, women and children are allowed to rock a fake ‘tache.