The 2014 FIFA World Cup (FWC) is now past. The global grip of the Games is released!
In classic World Cup style, the world’s top tier competition of the beautiful game brought player and fan energy to a fever pitch, with seconds becoming the turning points between dream and devastation. For a period of one month, billions of people were united by one focus, one remarkable force, one spontaneous question: “did you see the game?”
As expected, host nation Brasil shocked the world. But not with its playing prowess. Sadly it was its painful defeat, painfully early and goal-divide embarrassingly defeat, defying pre-Games predictions of home soil advantage and triumph. Likewise other leading football nations, the first upset of the tournament being the reigning champions, Spain, being forced to leave the event early, far too early, with heads heavily bowed.
On the flipside, the unexpected awe to created by otherwise unwatched Croatia as they score the first goal of the 2014 Championships over host country team Brasil, and the fierce fight put up by team USA as they joined the field of the world’s finest, performing with remarkable determination worthy of standing ovation, even if not able to stand up to their ultimate rivals to get past the round of 16 and onto the top of the tournament. Countless goals, moments and memories unfolded over the duration of the tournament across the 32 nations of football heroes, to make 2014’s FWC one for the history books.
And with Germany proving to be the champions this time ’round, bringing the finals to an exhaustive yet exhilarating close, FIFA, Brasil, and the global football community can be congratulated for bringing the world together – sports fans and curious spectators standing by, sworn followers and otherwise strangers, all nations, all backgrounds, all electrified by the build-up and the bonding caused by the truly beautiful game.
Yet, sadly, as seems to be the case with megaevents around the world, off-the-field drama eclipsed, in so many ways and at so many stages, focus on the real stars of the events – the athletes.
In the build-up to the 2014 FWC, even into the early hours of the tournament, other issues shifted attention away from the players from the exceptional capabilities and determination of 32 national teams. Arriving into Brasil with deflated levels of applause, athletes need to wait until political, protestor and other pre-event storms have passed before the sun could shine on them. Once momentum of the matches could be felt, challenges on the field took over from challenges off, thought he latter were never far from the focus of FWC critics. The 2014 FWC was not the first time this has happened. In 2014 alone, it has happened in Russia with the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and now in Brasil, with the FIFA World Cup.
What is happening to these once globally unifying forces of the human spirit? When did the beautiful game lose so much of its beauty?
When did our love for the athletes become the afterthought?
Issues need their focus, points need to be made by those feeling a need to have their voices heard.
But there needs to be a way to allow these two forces to coexist, so that the years of blood, sweat, tears, training and dreaming invested by the athletes, not to mention the efforts invested by those supporting them, can be honoured.
Are mega-events worth it? Can there ever be a calculation that yields an acceptable ROI?
With an estimated total of 3.4 million people attending matches at the stadiums and a further 5 million people at the Fan Fests:, the 2014 FWC’s twelve host cities are projected to have seen over 1 million international tourists and over 3 million domestic tourists over the duration of the tournaments. Such is the post-Games calculation made by Brasil’s Ministry of Tourism. The estimated impact of the 2014 FWC on Brasil’s economy? Recent study by the Economic Research Institute Foundation (FIPE) estimates that the sum of public and private investments in infrastructure was BRL$ 9.1 billion/US$ 4.1 billion. Direct spending by local tourists is estimated at BRL$ 346 million/US$ 146 million and foreign tourists BRL$ 102 million/US$ 46 million, and investments by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) on the 2014 Games BRL$ 311 million/US$ 140 million.
Some projections of earnings are even higher. As stated by VISA early on into the tournament,: “During the four-day opening period of the tournament (June 12 – June 15, 2014), Visa found that international visitors spent more than US$27M on their Visa accounts. This represents a 73 percent increase over the same four-day period in 2013. Visitors from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, France, and Mexico represented the largest overall tourist spend in Brazil during the four-day period. On Saturday, June 14, 2014 alone international travelers to Brazil spent more than US$10.7M using Visa products. This was the highest tourist spend day in the country in 2014.”
Even richer than the gains in earnings are the gains in what sadly cannot be quantified, yet we know is invaluable – the return on inspiration.
Megaevents such as the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games have the ability to yank the global community out of the “I” and into the “we“. National flags transcend individual identity in a way that no religion, no politics, no other force can.
And in so doing, it ignites a flame of hope that maybe, just maybe, we can rise above our differences at a common time to find a common love, common goal, common good.
As the 2014 FWC champions now take the trophy home to Germany for proud, celebrated safe-keeping, and attention shifts to Russia in anticipation of preparations for the 2018 FWC (though with Rio remaining on the radar for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games), somehow we need to find a way to allow social and political issues to be aired without taking the air out of the purpose of the Games themselves.
Somehow, hopefully soon, expressions of challenge around issues, organisers and activations need to find their rightful place within the greater mega-event infrastructure, keeping the playing fields open to drama of only the finest sporting kind.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014