21 July 2014

On the Subject of Whether or Not Brazil Could Handle the 2014 World Cup

Well, there were plenty of naysayers. They said the stadiums wouldn’t be ready, but for the most part they were. They said the airports wouldn’t be ready, but for the most part they were. The worst airport problems were weather-related. Brazil’s glorified golden team had its embarrassing "senior moment," but by now most Brazilians have gotten over it. Yes, Brazil pulled it off. And Brazil did it the Brazilian way, which means that they did it at the last minute, they were a bit disorganized, but they did it with tons of good humor and warmth and caring and creativity. And style, lots of style. Brazil really showed the world a good time, a better time, I’d wager, than anyone has ever had at a World Cup before.

I’d also wager that nobody, but nobody, thought that the one place Brazil would really shine would be in Law & Order. I’ve written many times that Brazil is world-famous as a country where lawbreaking fugitives can hole up in peace, but that image may well be near to cracking. An impressive number of internationally-wanted criminals were captured during this World Cup, thanks to super cooperation between Brazilian police and Interpol. Let’s see, they arrested an Argentine "Dirty War" torturer and murderer; they arrested a long-sought after Mexican drug trafficker; they arrested a German tax evader who fled to Brazil two years ago; and all of these crooks, and more, now await extradition. Amazing how soccer arouses such passion that the bad guys are willing to risk their freedom to watch a game!

Gang that led to Copacabana Palace, FIFA's HQ
The Brazilian federal police also managed to do what no police force has had the balls to do up to now. They caught an extremely high-level gang, some of whose members have ties to FIFA, which has been selling tickets on the black market for the last four World Cups! FIFA is furious, and not because such high-level people are involved in black marketeering. Oh, no, they’re furious that the Brazilian police have been relentlessly investigating this crime, and are naming names and making arrests! Ironic, isn’t it — so many people thought that Brazil wasn’t ready for the World Cup, when it turned out it was FIFA that wasn’t ready for Brazil.

The great and all-powerful FIFA had little good to say about Brazil’s preparedness before the games started, but ultimately it was FIFA that failed in many of its responsibilities. Stadium security? They blew it in the first week, when groups of Argentine and Chilean fans without tickets crashed stadium barriers. Food service? Non-existent the first week or so of games. And even so, FIFA continued to prohibit fans from bringing their own food to the stadiums. Alcoholic beverage service? FIFA insisted early on that Brazil temporarily suspend its very sound law which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages in sports stadiums. Then halfway through the games Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, announced that he was shocked, shocked, at the amount of alcohol sold during the games and the level of drunkenness of the fans! Oh, Mr. Valcke, who was going to give whom a kick in the ass a few years ago?

Wake me when it's over . . .
And let’s not even mention that opening ceremony — bland, colorless and way below Brazil’s talents and capabilities. It was FIFA that insisted the event be contracted out to a third party, under the aegis of a Belgian choreographer. Nothing at all against Belgium, but — booooooring! Okay, it’s all over, and in the balance I think Brazil (the country, I’m speaking of now, not the team) was a winner. Even so, we can’t seem to stop the infernal countdowns. Get out your calendars! It’s 76 days to the presidential election; 746 days to the 2016 Olympics; and 1,423 days to World Cup 2018!

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