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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Brazil 2014 bid under spotlight
By Tim Vickery

My girlfriend works as a secretary in the body that regulates Brazil's stock exchange. She earns a monthly salary of around 145. Or rather earned.

Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium
Are Brazil's stadia - apart from the Maracana - up to hosting a World Cup?
Last week her pay was cut to approximately 75. No negotiation. Take it or leave it.

And this at a time when prices are rising sharply. Like Robin Hood in reverse, the government tries to ease its own budget problems by taking from those who can least afford it.

What does this have to do with football? Plenty.

Fifa has awarded the 2014 World Cup to South America, and the continent's federation has nominated Brazil as the only candidate.

Now Brazil has to show that it is up to the task of organising South America's first World Cup since 1978.

The international press has already raised some obstacles. Brazil's stadiums are not up to scratch, they say. It is true, though there is plenty of time to put that right.

One journalist bizarrely chose to attack Brazil's airports. Perhaps he was barred from the VIP lounge. Airports are the least of Brazil's worries.

There are, however, legitimate and serious concerns about the 2014 World Cup.

Now that the competition has been expanded to 32 teams, only two countries in South America have enough cities to host the tournament.

One of those is Colombia, whose claims are currently ruled out by its political instability.

Which leaves Brazil.

The risk is of the 2014 World Cup taking place in a location which puts supporters in danger
The problem is that Brazil is hurrying through the stages of a process that has been termed "colombianisation."

The drug barons are forming an alternative power structure.

They now stage terrifying shows of strength; they can organise simultaneous riots in 30 prisons, can shut down commerce in Rio de Janeiro at will and have started assassinating judges who have taken a hard line against them.

Local news bulletins in Rio are now opening with reports on "our war" - the endless urban conflict which puts ordinary citizens in the firing line, and increasingly spells danger for tourists.

In night attacks last week a bomb was thrown at the window of a leading Rio hotel and a machine gun was fired at the station of the train which takes people up to the statue of Christ.

Economic inequality

The risk, then, is of the 2014 World Cup taking place in a location which puts supporters in danger.

The army of crime is set to increase. A dangerous message is sent out when the low paid are first in line for salary cuts.

Why suffer the humiliation of the indignity of labour? Why try to make it by legal means?

Esteemed historian Eric Hobsbawm described Brazil as "the world champion of economic inequality."

With many obstacles in the way of upward social mobility, it is no surprise that many opt for the money and prestige of a position in the drug traffic industry.

Much can happen in 11 years for good and bad. South America is clearly overdue a World Cup.

But without significant progress in the direction of social justice, Brazil 2014 is far from guaranteed.


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