The Tangible Legacy of FIFA and the 2014 World Cup: A Network to Nowhere

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The Tangible Legacy of FIFA and the 2014 World Cup: A Network to Nowhere
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Throughout the course of the run-up to the 2014 World Cup, it's becoming increasingly apparent that FIFA's definition of a "legacy" is different to that of you or I.

The tournament is set to go ahead in a host country riddled with political unrest, financial issues, public distress and death; that would usually be enough of a hint to discount a nation from bidding for the showpiece event, but in this case these unsavoury elements have been caused by FIFA themselves.

In December 2013, FIFA's Legacy Trust Scheme announced, via the organisation's official website, that they would commit $20 million to the task of leaving a "lasting legacy" in the country of Brazil, who are set to host the big kick-off in less than four months' time.

The objective is obvious: even more football in a football-mad country, more people involved than ever before and the promotion of fitness, nutrition and well-being. The reality, unfortunately, looks paling in contrast to the aims.

A plethora of issues have haunted the typically giddy build-up to the FIFA World Cup this summer, and public awareness of the problems attached have heightened to new, unprecedented levels.

 

The 2013 Confederations Cup

In the summer before every World Cup hosted since South Korea/Japan 2002, FIFA host the Confederations Cup as a dry-run to check on preparations.

It represents the perfect chance to fly in locally and check in on where the country stands in its planning, how the public transport networks are coping, what the fan interest is like and assess any potential security risks worth addressing in the next 12 months.

It's a condensed tournament, running for two weeks rather than four, gives spectators something to watch in the summer and gives one team the chance to lift an ever-important trophy in front of the world.

An ideal system on paper, certainly, but not when the hosting country's public decides to use it as a stage to voice their displeasure, and FIFA were left embarrassed in the summer of 2013 when Brazil outright rejected their presence on global television.

Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

As noted by Jonathan Watts of The Guardian, citizens of host cities have been displeased for years with a number of things affecting their daily lives: a rise in public transport fares, police brutality, corruption, poor public service conditions and low levels of safety chief among them.

Upon hearing the news that their country was set to spend £9 billion on a FIFA World Cup, it tipped them over the edge; how can a government justifiably spend such an astronomical amount on a showpiece event—lasting just 30 days!—when there are real, every-day concerns being ignored?

As Watts aptly puts it, the news served as a lightning conductor.

People took to the streets, clashing with riot police in an attempt to deliver their own message to local government. Rubber bullets flew, placards were torn down and stones were thrown in anger toward FIFA offices in Sao Paulo.

Perhaps the only saving grace—the only thing that made this "dry-run" even remotely successful—was that Brazil won the tournament, demolishing Spain 3-0 in the final. That at least placated the less furious in the mobs, but in the time since those feelings of unrest have festered.

 

The 2010 FIFA World Cup

Just shy of four years ago, South Africa were bestowed with the proud responsibility of hosting the African continent's first-ever FIFA World Cup.

Citizens were ecstatic, Africa was ecstatic, and a genuine communal feel gripped the continent. Even when teams such as Nigeria and South Africa were knocked out early on, fans of those nations continued to cheer on Ghana well into the knockout stages.

A coming together of people, in spirit, by way of football. FIFA President Sepp Blatter will have been smiling uncontrollably that week—despite Uruguay defeating the Black Stars on penalties after Luis Suarez hand-balled on the line.

An entirely different story was painted two-and-a-half years after the event, though, as the organisation's official expenditure report revealed mammoth, unnecessary costs that left very little in terms of the "legacy" FIFA often cite.

Felipe Dana/Associated Press

In November 2012, The Washington Times confirmed South Africa had spent in excess of $3 billion renovating the country to get ready for the finals, with $1.1 billion alone spent on upgrading and building new stadiums around the country.

$1.3 billion was allocated to improving transport links across the country, and just shy of $400 million was spent improving the ports of entry into the country.

No official figures have been released indicating how much the event made the host country, but Blatter announced in the same report that it had been a "huge, huge financial success for Africa, South Africa and for FIFA."

The money spent on infrastructures such as transport links and airports were welcome, long-term investments that have the potential to serve a country supremely well; the $1.1 billion on stadiums, however, can only be considered the complete opposite.

The Soccer City Stadium, renovated in 2009 to host the FIFA World Cup final, has a capacity of 84,490 (seated) and stands the largest stadium in Africa. It cost approximately $440 million in total, but is used largely for concerts and local 5-a-side tournaments.

On most days, its barren, empty, hulking presence casts a shadow on the city of Johannesburg.

Felipe Dana/Associated Press

The protocol of ground-hopping, where local clubs use multiple stadiums throughout a season, is rife in South Africa, and even the Kaizer Chiefs—the country's most prominent team—don't use the stadium all too often.

ESPN clocks their (unofficial) average attendance figures for the season to be around the 15,000 mark, meaning South Africa's most popular club can only fill around 18 percent of the stadium. The league-wide average attendance is said to be 6,624.

The Chiefs' annual match against the Orlando Pirates is the only fixture in which the stadium will look remotely full for a game of football.

According to David Conn of The Guardian, Green Point Urban Park, a 64,100-capacity stadium in Cape Town, costs £2 million a year in public money to run and has no definitive owner. South Africa's national rugby team, "the Springboks," prefer to play at Newlands Stadium, which is just down the road.

No wonder there are calls for some of the expensive, luxurious stadiums to be torn down or converted to housing. While sport is considered a national religion by some in South Africa, these "white elephants" are a drain on scarce public resources.

Is this the legacy FIFA intended to create?

 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup

Public demonstrations seen at the 2013 Confederations Cup are expected to be more vocal, more volatile and more widespread when the World Cup arrives this summer.

Jonathan Watts of The Guardian confirmed this week there had been more protests, more rubber bullets and more marches on the President's office. Citizens are being killed in amongst the mess, the unrest is spreading and the country is torn down the middle in its beliefs: a natural, inherent love for football is being tarnished by political and social chaos.

The most publicised failure in preparation for the event is the state of Brazil's stadiums, with the Arena de Baixada taking centre stage this week after receiving an ultimatum from FIFA itself with regard to its construction progress.

The BBC have confirmed FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke is due to arrive this weekend to check on the progress, and host cities behind schedule are at risk of being "thrown out."

With five of the 12 stadia still under construction it will make for a tense few days, and the northern city of Manaus—where three workers have died during the project—is also under close scrutiny.

Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

A week before the Group Stage draw, a partial collapse at the Itaquerao Stadium in Corinthians killed two workers and set progress back a matter of months. It's set to host the tournament opener between Brazil and Croatia.

If construction is behind, corners will have to be cut to speed up the process. This inevitably calls into question the quality of work, and therefore the degree of safety attached to the 20,000 fans stood in the terraces come June and July. You're adding risk, and that risk just happens to be people's lives.

The stories of tragic deaths, protests, corruption and ill use of public money has distracted many from the crushing realisations Brazil face once the World Cup has finished: Twelve (or perhaps 11) sparkling new/renovated stadiums standing half-empty, misused or abandoned.

Again, we revert to attendance figures for the Brasileiro Serie A and discover a huge disparity between the popularity levels of local league fixtures and the capacity of the stadia being built.

According to GloboEsporte's interactive chart for 2013, the average crowd for Brazil's domestic Campeonato is 14,951. Corinthians, who are due to move into the 70,000 seater Itaquerao Stadium once the tournament ends, averaged 28,911 spectators on the season.

The lowest average attendance recorded was Portuguesa, with 4,842.

 

What is FIFA's Legacy?

For FIFA, the legacy of a World Cup is paramount to success. It's the very motivation for the aforementioned Legacy Trust Scheme.

What does the event leave in its wake, how does it help the cities it touched and what impression does its mark leave on the vast world landscape? FIFA's PR is centred on the well-being of the host post-tournament.

The Washington Times report cited above quotes Blatter in his beliefs that FIFA have adorned an "intangible legacy" on South Africa following their successful hosting of the showpiece event. But what does that truly mean? It's business speak, code for unseen benefits, and when looking to assess the true legacy of a competition, only tangible successes can really be judged.

There has been no story more damning of the tournament than the BBC's television documentary showing the surrounding areas of some of the country's mammoth World Cup stadiums. One particular area was fenced off, and a woman stood in front of the camera in front of the fence, pointed to the arena and stated "I used to live in a house over there."

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

It brings fresh irony to the idea that citizens are suggesting some of South Africa's deserted stadiums, built on what now appears to be a 30-day rental, should be turned (back) into housing and flats.

A true legacy is what you feel, experience and enjoy in the aftermath of a major event. FIFA's insular view on the competition inevitably results in a pat on the back following a multi-million dollar profit, but what of those directly impacted, on the ground, within the vicinity of the action?

Brazilian citizens are very much alive to the possibility of being left in a black hole once July 2014 expires, and with it their World Cup dream. Their actions on the streets are prompted by a global awakening of the real legacy an organisation like FIFA is leaving.

They're voting with Molotov Cocktails and being pushed back by riot police with shields; They fear the eventuality of being burdened by the post-World Cup millstone, fixed firmly around their necks as it drags them down into further chaos and confusion.

In essence, it boils down to a fight for social justice: The source of riots at the 2013 Confederations Cup were that public money was being used, in the public's opinion, wrongly. They elected a democratic government to make decisions for them, yet FIFA's ability to swoop in and dictate how said money is being spent flew entirely wide of the democratic radar.

Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Countries feel forced to spend money on luxurious pillars of modern-day construction marvels, plunging millions into the project only to be left high and dry once the tournament is done. Did South Africa genuinely need 10 stadiums that all seat 40,000-plus?

Even some of the few plus points, such as South Africa's transport links, fall under scrutiny if pressed: if seven or eight stadiums are abandoned/rarely used, was there any point in spending over $1 billion on rail networks to get to and from them? It is literally a network to nowhere.

An overwhelming feeling of disgruntlement, and in some cases despair, has been the true, veritable legacy of the FIFA World Cup—bar the odd country who could actually support such an event without radical restructures taking place.

What do FIFA think their own legacy is? Is this what they intended, and do they believe that the Legacy Trust Fund, totalling $20 million for Brazil and $100 million for South Africa, is enough to cover the costs of the dust cloud they leave behind?

 

What Should a Legacy Be?

Football is a powerful, powerful tool that has managed to gain influence and overtures in nearly every political, social and sporting realm. With the weight it carries and its potential to do good, FIFA could and should be doing a lot more for host cities and countries.

FIFA place a strain on those unequipped to host the tournament; they've ordered Brazil to build 12 stadiums in just a few years, and once the tournament is over, they'll be either three quarters empty or reduced to save costs.

The locals deal in tangibles, not intangibles, and there isn't a whole lot of tangible success emanating from the World Cup in South Africa. Will Brazil be that different?

World Cups should seek to boost GDP, lessen poverty, boost natural resources and business and improve health care wherever it goes. There are very few tournaments on record where this has been the case, and the profit FIFA makes from the tournament is not donated to the hosts to repair themselves.

It comes down to the adequacy and legitimacy of the legacy, and an event this globally popular has to be wreaking less havoc and planting more seeds.

Tangible benefits and social justice are the two main priorities for citizens considering the current, circus-like, sweeping form the World Cup takes, and Brazil foresee neither in the run-up to the summer.

Even Shakira's boycotting it.

 

 

 

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