Brazilians are getting ready for a rough start to the World Cup

The official start to the 2014 FIFA World Cup festivities is only a few days away, but as I’ve noted over the past couple of weeks, the many infrastructure projects and updates that the Brazilian government began planning back when it won the bid to host the Cup in 2007 are still languishing in various stages of incompleteness while Brazilians are increasingly losing faith in their faltering economy and their President Dilma Rousseff’s to steer it. The promises that governments make about the long-term economic benefits of these types of events are almost unfailingly overblown, and even though Rousseff’s administration took some preemptive steps to try and ward off the types of strikes and protests that could cripple Brazil’s transportation and police systems just as tourists are pouring into the country, they haven’t been able to completely quash the signs of discontent. Via the Guardian:

Less than four days before it hosts the opening game of the World Cup, São Paulo became the scene of protests, street fires and teargas on Monday as striking subway workers brought chaos to the city.

The strike – which disrupted half the metro stations and worsened traffic in South America’s most populous city – was the latest headache for organisers as national teams from the United States, Spain and Argentina flew in for the start of the tournament on Thursday.

Security is also a major concern, particularly in Rio de Janeiro – the base of the England team – following a recent flare-up of unrest in the city’s favelas. Players from Roy Hodgson‘s England squad were due to visit Roçinha, the nearest shanty town to their hotel, on Monday night as part of an outreach programme.

Excitement about the tournament is steadily building among the public – evident in the growing number of flags in windows and bunting on the streets – but many Brazilians are still uneasy about the $11bn (£6.5bn) costs of hosting the tournament and associate the World Cup with corruption, inefficiency, evictions and misplaced priorities.

The protests aren’t remotely as large as the ones that rocked the country last June, but Brazilians are increasingly worried that the country won’t be able to handle the extra stress and that the government hasn’t done enough to batten down the hatches — despite the billions of dollars it has poured into the event and, by extension, into the 2016 Olympics. As Shannon Sims writes at Foreign Policy, Brazil might be “totally screwed” for the duration:

In an attempt to avoid the perfect storm of police strikes and street protests during the World Cup, the government acceded to the threat of strikes by offering a 15.8 percent pay raise to federal police agents and calling an additional 5,300 federal troops from the military into Rio. Whether the additional cash and manpower will make an impact in preventing crime from marring the experience of the 900,000 visitors expected to descend upon the city remains to be seen. …

Imagining the Cup is an exercise in envisioning everyday inconveniences, but at a greater level, Brazilians worry about the longer-term consequences of an $11.5 billion event in a country plagued by corruption. In reality, the event is likely to cost closer to $13 billion; the $11.5 billion price tag for federal, state, and host-city preparations was last updated in September of last year, and many of the works included in the preparations are still unfinished. A recent Pew poll found that 61 percent of Brazilians “say hosting the World Cup is a bad thing for Brazil because it takes money away from schools, health care, and other public services.” And while one-third of respondents believe the tournament will create more jobs and help the economy, that hope is tempered by an overwhelmingly negative perception of how President Dilma Rousseff is handling corruption. For Brazilians, part of the World Cup package is not just a suspicion of corruption but a virtual guarantee.