Why Brazil didn’t explode in the World Cup in 10 posts

In the end of last year I wrote ten reasons why the World Cup wouldn’t be chaotic. Obviously there was a lot of criticism to that post, but I stood by it because I saw some trends in Brazilian society that led to what we are seeing now — all going smoothly, with minor hiccups, like everywhere else. In September last year I said protests would be small and maybe violent during this month. The reasons were mounting since protests became frequent and without a clear focus, without the rise in transport fares being an issue any longer.

Although there was a lot of discontent with governance at all levels and clear engagement of some parts of society against football’s extravaganza, I noticed many Brazilians were critical basically because they were afraid of something going wrong during the World Cup. Once those predictions didn’t confirm, they gladly jumped in the bandwagon. After all, the demonstrations were against everything wrong in Brazil, not specifically the World Cup.

Some of these trends are in posts I wrote in the last year. I believe they are still valid to explain why Brazil didn’t explode. At least for now.

1 – The tension I felt in São Paulo days before the opener was not much different from the one I felt in Beijing shortly before the 2008 Summer Olympics.

2 – There were surely issues with preparations and very valid discussions about legacy. But the criticism on what would happen this month was often mirroring the sentiment of a tiny elite dislikes being Brazilian.

3 – In other occasions media have taken whatever anti-World Cup protesters said for the face value. They forgot to notice these demonstrators had’t built a solid base over the years. They just wanted the attention shortly after the event. The vast majority of Brazilians didn’t want to sabotage the event. They wanted more debate about it, but the silent majority never wanted to cancel it.

4 – Part of the criticism was basically because some saw an opportunity to beat the ruling coalition in the next general elections. It wasn’t sophisticated criticism, it was just a lot of noise that made the atmosphere more toxic than it actually deserved.

5 – People were tired of protests. It has been like that for a while and that has taken massive support from protests.

6 – Police are less terrible. That is a fact. They are more bystanders than soldiers in a number of occasions. And that has made people notice protesters were violent as well — specially after a cameraman was killed by a black bloc.

7 – Media didn’t do a good job covering the country, and I am holding myself accountable for this as well. Correspondents here surely did better, but the vast majority of news didn’t come from Brazil at all. They were just planned by some editor who has never set foot in the country, read about it or cared enough to foster accurate accounts of what was going on here. No wonder so many tourists are surprised with things going well.

8 – Hosting a World Cup is more than counting expenses. And that is why people do it. If you have any doubts about that, question someone in Manaus if they ever felt this Brazilian. Or in Natal. Or in Cuiabá. Ask people in big cities if they are happy with the tourists and what tourists have said about Brazil. Showing we can handle big events doesn’t come in a price tag.

9 – Brazil’s problems were never supposed to go away with the World Cup. People have more realistic expectations than they actually say.

10 – Brazilians have a sense there is corruption involving World Cup constructions, but most of them can’t say exactly what. In Brazil people rarely can tell the difference between corruption and investment. Since there was no focus — it could have been the Manaus or the Brasilia arenas, for example — enthusiasm for protests waned.

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email: savarese.mauricio@gmail.com

Posted on 23/06/2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. A year ago I was pessimistic about what might happen during the World Cup, but as we got closer and closer I couldn’t help but be optimistic. I went to a World Cup game in Sao Paulo and I was amazed at how great everything was, except for England on the pitch, that is.

    Talking to my family and friends outside Brazil, they are only getting positive images of Brazil. I have high hopes that this World Cup will have an excellent legacy, and not only in some of the infrastructure but also in people’s mindsets.

    Now, the Olympics in Rio, on the other hand… 😉

  2. I don’t think the World Cup is going to make Brazil “explode” either, but I think it’s rather early for a reflection on its effects, given there’s two more weeks to go. Economically speaking, especially, I think it will take a while to see its full effect.
    8. In my opinion, this is rather idealistic but not practical. It’s nice to feel good about your image abroad for a few weeks, but at what cost? I can’t imagine the people who were displaced to make way for stadiums care so much about what tourists think about Brazil.
    9. Agreed.
    10. That’s the thing with corruption — it’s a lack of transparency.
    There are still protests, at least here in São Paulo, but as you mentioned, they’ve waned. I hope people continue to demand accountability from the government and work for change even after the World Cup. It’s not about being anti-Brazilian or toxic, it’s about trying to make Brazil a better place for all its citizens. Dissent is not necessarily a bad thing.

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