Well, that’s that then. The World Cup 2014 is over. All the worries and concerns about whether the tournament would be a success can be laid to rest because this thing is over.
How do you think it went? Sadly, through an overabundance of work, I didn’t get to attend any of the matches in any of the stadiums, but I was out and about on the streets of Rio throughout the tournament and also met a huge number of tourists who were in town specifically for the World Cup. Here’s my take on the tournament:
I was going to reel off some stats for you, but this link from the Guardian has got that side of things covered already. Looking at the tournament in terms of football, I think you’d have to say it has been a success. Lots of goals (no World Cup tournament has seen more), some very exciting games (Netherlands vs Costa Rica had me and Mrs Eat Rio jumping out of our seats) and some huge shocks (looking at you, Brazil and Spain). I’m not so convinced that the referees were a big hit, but the newly introduced (and long overdue) goal-line technology did its job well.
As for Fifa, I rather like the way Barney Ronay in the Guardian put it: “even Fifa managed to emerge from this World Cup relatively unscathed, albeit from a position of already being pretty heavily scathed in the first place” (it really says something about an organisation’s reputation when a $100 million ticketing scam is seen as being ‘not so bad’…).
This event brought a huge number of visitors to Brazil, from business travellers involved in organisation, sponsorship and other corporate events to the hordes of fans that flew in or joined the enormous car convoys that drove all the way from Chile. I met a lot of World Cup visitors over the last couple of months. Those that came on my food tours were universally delighted to be here and seemed very satisfied with the events and facilities. They also spoke highly of other host cities like Belo Horizonte and Salvador (though one guest did describe São Paulo as “the ugliest city in the world, with the possible exception of Johannesburg”).
I went to the Fanfest in Copacabana for quite a few of the games and while the fenced off screen was always too crowded for me to get in, the open screen further back on the beach was a fun place to mingle with thousands of other fans to watch the game. Sure it was hard to catch a cab in the 2 hours before a game, but Rio’s metro system coped well.
The Police and the Protests
If you’re looking for some positive spin on the Brazilian police, you can concentrate on the way that they managed to crack this ticket scalping scam which we are told had evaded the best efforts of Scotland Yard and other international police forces for years.
On the other hand, in the last 48 hours of the World Cup we saw scandalous behaviour from Military Police in suppressing legal protests, assaulting protesters and members of the international media, carrying out illegal pre-emptive arrests of activists on the eve of the Final and the troubling introduction of ‘kettling‘ tactics in Sãens Peña on Sunday.
So, all in all, the fears of some surprise disaster were unfounded (well, disasters off the field at least…). The issues we already knew about (overspending, unfinished infrastructure, forced evictions, brutal police response to peaceful protest) went right on happening and presumably weren’t noticed or deemed noteworthy by the majority of international press.
Personally, I woke up on Monday and breathed a huge sigh of relief. For me, World Cup 2014 was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, but I think we’re all ready to get back to normality for a little while (and by ‘little while’, I mean 752 days, 11 hours, 53 minutes and 22 seconds, give or take).