The total cost of putting on the World Cup in Brazil, which started on Thursday, is Brazilian Real (R) $25.6 billion, ($11.5 billion USD), according to the country’s Ministry of Sports. That, compared to the country’s 2014 education budget of R$44.2 billion, is just more salt in the wounds of those in the South American country who have opposed the lavish spending on the sporting tournament.
In an article published by Forbes, the fact that the country is spending 61% as much on upgrades for athletics as it does on its public school system has definitely become a sore spot, with protests and riots in the country in the weeks and months leading up to the World Cup.
On Thursday morning, 500 striking teachers clogged rush our traffic in parts of Rio de Janeiro to protest how much money has been spent on the Cup, according to a report from Press TV. Rio de Janeiro, the country’s capital city, will host the World Cup final in a month.
The teachers are on strike protesting better salaries for themselves and more money invested in both the health and education components of the country.
One of the more vocal non-governmental organizations (NGO) protesting the use of public funds is called “Rio de Paz.” Its spokesman, Antonio Cost, berated government officials for what he believes are misplaced priorities:
“Billions of reals worth of taxes have been spent on this World Cup, in a country where children don’t have access to quality education, where people are dying because of a lack of treatment in public hospitals. The Brazilian people have been hurt … damaged in their inner beings and that’s why many aren’t getting involved in the World Cup.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff fired back at critics of the government’s spending in a story published by Euro News:
“There are people who claim the resources for the Cup should have been directed to healthcare and education. I hear and respect those opinions, but I don’t agree with them. It’s a false dilemma. From 2010, the amount invested in education and healthcare in Brazil has been 212 times more than the amount invested in the stadiums.”
Some of the money spent has been to improve things other than sports stadiums – such as the country’s airports and highways. In addition, the Cup will bring in a substantial amount of money in the form of tourism to the country. According to Forbes, the Confederation Cup, held last year in Brazil, earned the country some $336 million in tourism revenue. In 2010, South Africa hosted the World Cup and set a record for tourists visiting that country with 8.1 million.
Brazil is hardly the first country to receive criticism from its citizens for money spent on athletic competitions. In 2004, Greece saw its budget for the Summer Olympics balloon as high as €9 billion ($12 billion), more than triple the original budget. The country has been on the verge of economic disaster for much of the last decade, bailed out twice by the European Union.