I’m a social progressive, in a big way. The measure of our character and our progress is by the way we treat the lowliest among us. I am also a big soccer fan, and more so every year. If you’ve been following the news out of Brazil over the past weeks and, in truth, even over the past several years, you might see how these two facts come steadily and painfully into conflict.
I don’t wish to pretend some great insight or even knowledge regarding the instigation of these protests, but I watch from a distance with great interest and I’m very much behind what the protestors, urban and indigenous, as they call out the government for lacking public services, food, education, and the like. Here’s an abbreviated list of grievances from protestors:
- Increased fares on public transportation or otherwise completely insufficient coverage
- Government corruption, embezzlement, overbilling
- Lacking infrastructure, education, medical facilities, and public services
- High cost of living
- Diversion of government money to sports events (including the upcoming World Cup and last year’s Confederations Cup, both in Brazil)
- Limiting of legislative powers
- Indigenous land rights
This is by no means a simple issue, nor is it directly tied to the upcoming World Cup. Rather, these are a complex collection of social issues so insipient to Brazilians and expats that protests over the past several years have taken place in cities all over the globe. At issue here are massive governmental grievances which have not been addressed and have in fact been severely exacerbated by Brazil’s bid for the 2014 Cup and the massive amounts of money that go into such buildups and executions. I mean, the FIFA governing body asked for eight stadiums, a huge feat. Brazil responded with twelve, several of which were still under construction a week ago.
Just as there are no simple explanations for all that ails Brazil, there is no simple fix. It was recently pointed out to me that, despite being a very happy person, I’m not terribly positive. I’m hypercritical about almost everything, including the things that I love (if you read my blog, maybe you have similarly noticed). I don’t particularly want to change that in every part of my life, but it might be good to curb it in some.
So, lacking sufficient knowledge or experience to allow me to say much more than I support the Brazilian protestors or list off everything their government is doing wrong—an effort that would surely show my ignorance in its entirety—I’d prefer instead to offer a suggestion to the world. This suggestion is every bit in support of those in Brazil, as well as all who have been hurt, inconvenienced, and even criminally mistreated in Sochi, Russia and Beijing, and—actually, I can’t begin to list the cities. The problem is huge. Thus, my suggestion.
This is Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. It is among the newly constructed stadiums and was built on the site of a demolished older stadium (thank goodness for that). It is my contention that this should have been built on international land.
This is an abandoned volleyball court in Beijing, build for the 2008 Olympics and subsequently left to rot. It should have been maintained on land administered by the top nations involved in the Olympics.
One more. This training pool, built for the 2004 Athens Olympics, should been clean, maintained, and a site for future swimmers to prepare. This is in Athens, Greece, less than three hours from the originating site of the greatest games in antiquity.
What’s more, all of these images are of venues meant for use in just the last decade. Were we to go back half a century, it just gets worse.
It is criminal that these facilities should be built and allowed to crumble. It is disgusting that people are routed from their homes and untold billions are spent to make these enormous buildings so that they might be chained up and forgotten in a year’s time. To be sure, there are so many good things that could be done with these facilities after their initial use. And further, sometimes they aren’t left to rot. The Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was built and opened for the 1950 World Cup and it was renovated in preparation for the 2014 Cup starting next Thursday (I am just incredibly excited about this). But more often, sports facilities that could be maintained for future use or open to public use or refitted for alternate use are instead allowed to crumble for more reasons than I could begin to list.
One of the first arguments to come to mind in rebuttal to my suggestion is that the massive amount of money put into the preparations for these games is an investment. Thousands of jobs are created, not to mention a great deal of creativity and ingenuity. These spectacles create tourist attractions and bring in loads of international money and attention to boot. To every one of these points, I say bollocks. Thousands of jobs are created, sure. And those jobs last at maximum a few years until the games—whatever they may be—have finished. Then what? Maybe the facility is maintained and some jobs remain. Most go with the dodo.
Creativity and Ingenuity? Are you kidding? In the current mode, thousands compete to design and build these structures. In the spirit of international cooperation and competition, the very essence of great, world spanning games, you have millions vying to bring glory on themselves, their countries, and indeed the games themselves.
Tourist attractions? HA! The amount of money that goes into the bids for and construction of these games is enormous and comes from taxes. Disproportionately, the people called upon to pay for these games see little or diminishing return on their “investment.” It is fleeting at best, non-existent more often.
The upkeep on structures built to last and meant for the world would be enormous, creating far more jobs. It would build the very international cooperation that games of these kind, these immense world-spanning games, are meant to create.
It is not an easy thing to do. I’m not claiming it would be. We have to find the land, and it obviously can’t go on the only international landmass remaining the world. Brrr. It would have to come from an existing nation, which would of course be a difficult challenge. They must be compensated without undue advantage going to that government. It would undoubtedly be a difficult situation to manage with so many opportunities for bribery, corruption, and collusion. Such are the risks in the current system. At least the end goal in this new, more international world is a greater connectedness to those we challenge on the field and in the water and on the sand.
I present this challenge not because it is easy but because it is worthwhile. I’m sure I’m by no means the first to have thought along these lines and I would not be in the least surprised to find that the UN had already entertained similar ideas. Ok. Let’s entertain them again. I think this is worthwhile. Maybe we have multiple sites around the world, all built in cooperation between participating countries, all belonging to humankind rather than any on government. This is something we can do, something that we can look on objectively as the Other and see a reason for faith in and respect for humanity. And along the way, we can watch some damn fine sport.
Let’s get building.
Some of my references: