Days before World Cup, much of Brazil just not in the mood

Fri Jun 6, 2014 3:57pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The upcoming soccer World Cup in Brazil was supposed to be the party to end all parties.

What more could a fan want?

The home of Carnival and "the beautiful game," as Pelé once famously called it, finally had the economic, political and social stability to host the tournament for the first time since 1950 and any of Brazil's subsequent five World Cup titles, more than for any other nation.

After a half-century in which its soccer prowess outdribbled its development, Latin America's biggest country could at last flout its success both on and off the pitch.

But less than a week before kickoff on June 12, Brazil feels anything but festive. An economic boom that catapulted 40 million people out of poverty in the last decade, and motivated Brazil to host the world's most popular sports event, has waned.

With rising inflation, urban gridlock and soaring crime as a backdrop, protesters over the past year have rallied against $11 billion in World Cup spending and alleged corruption that drove up the cost of building stadiums and other infrastructure projects, some of which were never delivered.

Sportscasts on team strategy, prevalent before previous World Cups, are splitting air time with news reports featuring soldiers and police deployed in 12 host cities to ensure that labor strikes, demonstrations and crime don't disrupt the tournament.

At its most telling, the lack of enthusiasm is evident on sidewalks, squares and corner cafes. Absent the riot of yellow and green that normally erupts every four years, many public areas remain remarkably staid even as Brazil prepares to host an event that it always celebrated from afar.   Continued...

A boy rides his bicycle along a street painted with the Brazilian flag and national colours, at the Turano slum in Rio de Janeiro June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares