Legacy or liability: is hosting sports events good for developing countries?

Legacy or liability: is hosting sports events good for developing countries?

Hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup cost South Africa $7.3 billion, 6 percent of its annual budget. In a country where approximately 7 million people are living with HIV and around 17 percent are living on less than $1.90 a day, was this investment really worth it? Advocates argue the hugely successful tournament rebranded the country as a great place to invest in and visit and made many South Africans happy. Skeptics point out that the supposed legacy of the tournament has not stopped GDP per capita falling dramatically from $8,078 in 2011 to $5,724 in 2015. Similar arguments took place in Brazil after they hosted the 2014 World Cup, and will continue in the aftermath of the 2016 Olympic Games. So, is it all worth it?

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, said he believed the legacy of hosting the World Cup would benefit Africa for decades. Countries such as Kenya and Morocco have voiced their ambition to host future Olympic Games.  In 2012, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister at the time, said hosting the Games would bring “enormous benefits” from investment in infrastructure. Such claims might make sense on paper; showing developing countries in a positive light would attract foreign investment, the tourism sector would boom and improvements in infrastructure would increase productivity. However, economists who have studied this are less optimistic. In South Africa, money spent on new stadiums, which incidentally are now rather redundant, could have been allocated to fighting HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, increased tax burdens might be better spent addressing long-term traffic problems in Nairobi rather than building luxury Olympic Village-style apartments. Government investment in infrastructure tends to be focused on the event itself rather than day-to-day living and business activity in the region, benefiting visitors at the expense of locals.

Furthermore, jobs created in constructing this infrastructure tend to be temporary.  In Brazil, more secure, longer-term jobs would have been created if the Brazilian government had invested in renewable energy or new schools rather than the World Cup and the Olympics. The wider benefits of the boost in employment tend to be overestimated and wealth may leak out of the cities like Rio de Janeiro given that many workers tend to be migrants.

 

So, if the economics do not stack up then why do politicians in emerging countries appear so enthusiastic about hosting these events? Surely voters will punish them when the promised economic booms do not materialize? The reason they do not, might be because as studies suggest, these events increase the short-term life satisfaction and happiness of people living in the host nation. The pride of seeing one’s country appearing in a positive light on the world stage is one reason, another is being able to support one’s home nation and the social cohesion that comes with it. And, as a result, the political standing of the country’s leaders improves. But these increases in life satisfaction tend to be short-term. Seeing a decrease in HIV infections, corruption or income inequality in South Africa and Brazil respectively surely would have a bigger long-term impact than hosting the World Cup or Olympics.

Governments should take the short-term happiness of citizens into account when making decisions but the economics of hosting these feel-good events has been shown to be detrimental. Investing in health, education and democratic institutions to boost economic growth and improve the daily lives of constituents is a better solution than a month-long vanity extravaganza. As has been demonstrated by South Africa, even despite a successful World Cup, the tournament’s legacy has not stopped life being gloomy for many people.

Thumbnail image: Unidentified group of kids play football in a village in South Sudan |Photograph Shutterstock/ John Wollwerth

Learn more:

New York Times – Brazil’s Uplifting Olympics

Guardian – What is Rio’s Olympic Legacy?

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Un Mundo Novo: A New World

Un Mundo Novo: A New World

In this article, Isabel O’Brien discusses the disregard for Rio’s favelas in the midst of political corruption and the impact of increased Olympic spending on the city’s poorest communities.

I cannot help but think officials gave as little attention to the creation of the Rio 2016 Olympic slogan as they do to the issue of favelas, the city’s crime-ridden slum areas. The promise of a new world is no more than a fallacious narrative, a narrative that the favela communities of Rio de Janeiro are tired of reading. They care not for the next chapter but rather that the entire book is rewritten, that they be given the voice of a protagonist and not a character who is encountered so fleetingly they are barely worthy of a name. Favelas are repeatedly excluded from public legislation and fiscal policy rendering their existence invisible in the eyes of the state, despite their conspicuous nature across the urban landscape. The relentless desire to silence the favelas has not gone unnoticed. A Perspex ‘acoustic’ barrier constructed between the Complexo da Maré, a large network of slums, and the Linha Vermelha, the main expressway connecting the airport to the city is known locally as “the wall of shame” reaffirming the disheartening idea of second rate citizenship that continues to percolate favela mindset.

Peter Burgess/Creative commons license
Peter Burgess/Creative commons license

Rio’s favelas, however, are rich in organic Carioca culture. I was fortunate enough to visit Rocinha in June, the most populous favela in Brazil, with an estimated population of over 100,000. Whilst I speculate that my experience of Rocinha was highly sanitised, the things I encountered did little to subdue my social conscience. Children samba, but dance in their own sewage. Women nurture but worry how they can protect the health of their babies. Men admire the ocean view but do so under the surveillance of gun-wielding drug lords. Yet beyond dystopian observations, Rocinha’s community is defined by enviable bonds of kinship, liberal artistic displays and a shrewd level of entrepreneurship that sustains the favela’s informal economy.

All of this, however, is fundamentally undermined by the Brazilian drug trade and endemic police corruption. Although Rocinha was pacified in 2011, drug-lords continue to infiltrate Rocinhan society and the impasse between state officials and narcotic dealers is undoubtedly worsening. The police’s approach to rectifying the drug-fuelled monopoly over Rocinha is paradoxical to say the least and inhibits development schemes seeking to deliver educational services and health awareness to residents, essential given current concerns regarding the Zika virus. Drug lords facilitate the laundering of hush money, benefitting the police who seldom apologise for the impact this has on aid provision and eventually kill those who have exhausted their use. 10,699 people were killed by police in Rio between 2003-2014. In the midst of their politics, there is still only one high school in the whole of Rocinha but the intimate relationship between the government and the police ensures that positive state intervention remains at a dismal level, jeopardising the health, education and future of Rocinha’s youth.

So can the Olympics bring some relief to Rio’s favelas? Despite an Olympic ‘taster day’ at Rocinha’s Sports Centre, the scaling back of favela pacification in order to accommodate for the

Guy chaillou/Creative commons license
Guy chaillou/Creative commons license

Olympic budget suggests otherwise. It is estimated that 39.1 billion reals (£9.1bn) will be spent on the games however it is unlikely that favela communities will share in any success. The inclusion in the Opening Ceremony of Favela Brass, an NGO-led brass band, and the Passinho dance, a funk-samba hybrid birthed in the favelas is moderate recognition of favela culture but it does little to compensate for the cuts to essential development programmes. Rocinha needs improved infrastructure to cope with its growing population and its physical vulnerability. Due to its hillside location, the favela is subject to frequent deadly landslides during periods of heavy rainfall but the community is unsurprisingly ill-prepared for these and less than half of residents have piped water systems. The charmingly narrow lanes typical of Rocinha are resented by those whose lives depend on scaling the steep steps every day. There is perhaps no better metaphor of government attitudes towards favela development than the half complete cable car structure that watches over Rocinha.

Unfortunately, favelas are not in keeping with the global Olympic facade. They have been omitted from official Olympic maps and tourists have been awarded priority to use Rocinha’s first subway station, a decision that endorses the fear of second-rate citizenship. The favela communities require government support yet subscription to a state system steeped in immorality seems regressive. The legacy of Rio’s Olympic games is unlikely to be that of ‘a new world’ and rather that of a deeply divided city.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Rio 2016: Trouble in Paradise?

Rio 2016: Trouble in Paradise?

The continued spread of the Zika virus along with political and economic instability has spawned numerous questions about the 2016 Olympic games. Here, Adam Grech examines the challenges Brazil faces as the host nation, as well as whether the Games should be postponed.

Peter Burgess/Creative Commons License
Peter Burgess/Creative Commons License

On the 5th of August, the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will commence in Brazil. From its Christ the Redeemer statue to the beautiful beaches that make up the city’s coastline, Rio is internationally known as a city of magnificence and marvel. This year, however, Rio de Janeiro and Brazil itself have undergone an intense level of turmoil. While under normal circumstances the host nation of the Olympic Games would propel itself to the forefront of the global conversation, this year, disease, poor living conditions, and political scandal have brought Brazil headlines for all the wrong reasons. With the Games fast approaching and many urging them to be halted, we are left to contemplate the consequences of the festivities for both Brazil, as well as the rest of the world, and whether or not their postponement would be in the best interest for all.

The Zika Virus and Global Health

For many travelers and athletes alike, the threat of contracting the Zika virus while in Brazil has been the catalyst for reconsidering attending the Games. Many competitors who were expected make the trip to Rio, including NBA star Stephen Curry, have announced they will not be attending out of concerns for their health, and more are expected to follow. The virus itself, which is transmitted primarily via the bite of mosquitos, has spread rapidly across the Western Hemisphere and can cause severe birth defects for the children of those infected. Brazil, located in the center of the epidemic, has been one of the nations most impacted by the virus with over one million infected since the beginning of the outbreak in 2015. Although the Games are to occur during Brazil’s winter months, which may mitigate the transmission of the virus, some have argued that the influx of 500,000 foreign visitors could have a troublesome global health impact, potentially accelerating its spread.  Should the virus diffuse to North America and Europe during their summer months, the warmer temperatures and increased mosquito populations could lead to greater transmission rates. Despite health professionals being split on the possible consequences of the Games continuation, it is safe to say that the level of exposure to the virus by those coming to Brazil will not ease its spread, and we are now forced to ask ourselves whether the risk of further transmission is worth confronting directly.

The Cost for Brazil

In order to prepare for the Games, Brazil will likely spend upwards of $13 billion USD. Despite the possible benefits of hosting the Olympics, the extreme cost could greatly harm the people of Brazil in the long term. With much of the Olympic budget going towards the improvement and construction of sporting structures for the Games, there has been a severe neglect of the needs of the local population. With an economy in the midst of a recession, many public services, particularly local hospitals, have experienced large budget cutbacks, and further funding of the Games will likely continue to drain funds from public services. Additionally, with widespread government corruption and the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff dominating Brazil’s political landscape, stability within the state is uncertain during a critical time where significant decisions regarding the country’s future are going to be made. The combination of these problems has led to a difficult road ahead for the Brazilian people. While a delay of the Games would cost the Brazilian government their significant investment in the events, it would allow for a focus on domestic issues that have been plaguing the country, and provide the best hope for a prosperous future for Brazil.

Alobos Life/Creative Commons License
Alobos Life/Creative Commons License

Too Little Too Late?

While some speculate whether Zika alone may merit the postponement or cancelation of the Games, the combination of the considerable health risks involved and Brazil’s recent domestic troubles do. Despite this however, government officials insist that the Games will not be postponed. With the possibility of a global spread of the Zika virus, as well as severe economic and political instability, the 2016 Games could prove to be disastrously costly for all parties involved. Although the hosting of the Games could provide a number of benefits to Brazil, the considerable costs shouldered by the state’s people outweigh many of these potential gains, and have been largely ignored by the parties involved. Though it may not be the outcome desired, a deferment of the Games would allow Brazil the opportunity to focus on the rebuilding of state stability, further inhibit the spread of the Zika virus, and would be the best course of action for all.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Fifa: Any positives?

Fifa: Any positives?

Fifa has been caught in the eye of a media storm that raises allegations of corruption, tax evasion, and bribery. Our Blog Editor, Joe Corry-Roake, examines the Fifa scandal with regards to the philanthropic work the organisation has done in the past. 

©blogcpolitic /Creative Commons License
©blogcpolitic /Creative Commons License

Within the space of a week, Sepp Blatter was both re-elected as Fifa President, and subsequently resigned. Blatter was able to be elected because during his time as President, FIFA have given a lot of money to help the development of less established parts of the globe by investing in both football and social projects. While there has of course been some corruption and not all of the money has necessarily gone where it should have gone, comparisons can certainly be made with other areas of ‘aid giving’ where money is frequently lost or utilised as ‘operating’ money or to grease the wheels.

Fifa argues that football provides money for local grassroots initiatives and also encourages countries to put on youth tournaments that are a source of national pride and can help develop infrastructure. The World Cup in South Africa in 2010 was seen as a big opportunity for a country to show all of the good that they have to offer to a global audience (even if the legacy suggests a lot of the money that was spent was wasted on vanity projects with little thought to usage in the longer term).

Not only can this pride be potentially beneficial in bringing investment and other resources into the country, but Fifa goes to great lengths to show other positive benefits of sport, such as in peace-building efforts. Blatter recently stated that “the World Cup in Russia [in 2018] will be able to stabilise all the situation in this region of Europe that is suffering now.” If this is true then you have to give Fifa huge credit from transforming a game widely criticised and condemned during the 1980’s due to its links with violence and hooliganism into one which can succeed in building bridges where nothing has has succeeded.

However, despite these successes, the promotion of this positive aspect of the game of football can be seen as just a tool to grow the consensus of the intrinsic good of their product. In doing so they not only enhance their own image but encourage greater investment from corporate sponsors who can claim to not only support a leisure activity but also a social good. This positive public relations exercise spins the game which is becoming increasingly commercialised into a new phenomenon far less open to criticism.

Furthermore, while the amount of money being put into those less developed footballing nations is increasing, most of the large footballing  “event’s main direct benefits, from television and marketing rights, all go to FIFA.” These are then said to be shared around the ‘football family’ but as can be seen in Brazil and South Africa, they have just been left with white elephant projects.

©Marko Forsten /Creative Commons License
©Marko Forsten /Creative Commons License

Blatter has now stepped down but this doesn’t mean that the continued use of backhanders and pandering to countries and individuals to gain votes will cease. What instead needs to happen is a realisation and an understanding that football does have great potential to make a real and tangible difference to people’s lives but this is only if it is used correctly. For example, Fifa-sponsored programmes in Liberia are said to not only help improve individuals self confidence and health benefits of partaking in exercise, but also being “the vehicle that can bring unity for our [Liberian] people.” This is just one example of a grassroots attempt which is complemented by the use of famous sporting stars lending their name and their brand to worthy causes. Between 2011 and 2014, Fifa’s income totaled almost $6 Billion USD with 4 billion of these coming from the Brazil World Cup.

This money combined with the huge potential reach of football – with 3.5 billion fans and 250 million people worldwide playing the game at either a professional or amateur level – is a huge opportunity for the next president not only to clean up the internal mechanisms of Fifa but also to recognise that, despite the potential of football to be a real force for good, simply expressing this as rhetoric is not enough. Football is not an intrinsic good but it can be of great instrumental value; giving access and opportunities to people all over the world and acting as a unifying force.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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An arena for change: how sport is having an impact on international development

Photo by David Catchpole

As the Olympics fully take off, DiA writer Sam Hall considers the positive impact that sport has on the developing world

The London 2012 Olympics has been steeped in accusations of tax dodging and security concerns, and for a lot of people the event has been met with cynicism. But among these high-profile stories are subplots about how sport can present an arena for positive change beyond our immediate national interests.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Bringing transparency to the developing world

Photo by Pablo Manriquez

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As the African Cup of Nations’ qualifying stages kick off, Rowan Emslie points towards corruption within FIFA and asks how realistic it is to expect greater transparency in all areas of development.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Corruption at the Crease

DiA’s Blog Editor Will Jones delves deep into the heart of the Indian subcontinent’s illegal gambling industry to investigate the state of corruption in cricket. Featuring interviews with influential cricket journalists and former international cricketers, the article reveals how despite the efforts of the ICC to eliminate crookedness from cricket, match-fixing is still an inherent aspect of the sport.

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IPL – India’s latest Bollywood Blockbuster

The Cricket World Cup in India has once again demonstrated the country’s love for its adopted sport. Ahmedabad plays host to the quarter final between India and Australia tomorrow, as Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and co. hope to take their nation one step closer to one-day World Cup glory. On the eve of the match, DiA blogger Sandhya Kannan reports on the growth of another format of cricket in India – Twenty20, and more specifically, the Indian Premier League.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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