There is no question that sports, particularly football, are effective at bringing people together and sparking a sense of national pride amongst fans. Many of my friends and I, happen to be avid fans of soccer. However, it is important to recognize the ethical and moral repercussions of mega events and the adverse effects they have on citizens in the host countries (often at the expense of our own entertainment). This issue particularly rings true today as controversies continue to arise in the logistics of mega events, with even UNESCO weighing in on the questionable ways in which the Olympics has been staged in recent years.
A survey conducted by the Brazilian Ministry of Sports this month stated that while 75 percent of respondents thought that the World Cup would strengthen pride Brazilian nationalism, a whopping 68 percent also felt that the World Cup in Brazil would be the most disorganized World Cup to date. This conclusion isn’t particularly surprising news, given the massive protests that sparked in Brazil this summer. People demonstrated over the rising costs of living and misappropriation of public funds to build new stadiums for both the FIFA Confederation Cup and World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics. Brazilians rioted as budgets to fix crucial infrastructure problems in major cities were put on hold or completely squandered on projects related to the World Cup — even after the Brazilian Sports Ministry promised only private funds would be used for such projects. Unfortunately, it does not stop there.
In preparation for these mega events, the Brazilian government has begun destroying favelas (shanty towns) across Rio de Janeiro. Favelas in Brazil are home to over eleven million citizens: over one-fifth of all Rio residents. Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, promised to begin addressing infrastructure problems in Rio’s favelas — but instead, many neighborhoods have been demolished to make room for highway expansions, parking lots, and even stadiums (in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics). The residences of these favelas have been given a meager compensation of $41,000, which, in Rio’s housing boom, makes it near impossible to find new places to live in the city. As more and more residents of Rio’s favelas have been evicted, there has been little governmental response to subsequent homelessness.
These problems are not exclusive to the World Cup. They are just as applicable to other mega events around the world, where the large costs and questionable policies yield very little benefits economically or socially for the host country and particularly for the citizens of the cities who are immediately affected. Even Switzerland, traditionally viewed as an economically well-off country, withdrew its bid for the 2022 Olympics after the Swiss Cantons voted against it. In fact, the Union of European Football Associations decided to host the 2020 UEFA championships across thirteen European cities after receiving only three bids to host the championships. This move by the UEFA allowed the economic burden to be shared among participants. This distribution needs to become more common practice.
As mega events continue to become increasingly problematic for their host countries, it is time to reevaluate the importance of such events and begin to create more inclusive and ethical practices where the economic burden is shared and citizens rights are not ignored by the state.
Bryce Chiodo is a senior international studies major.