Before arriving in Brazil, I thought that the majority of Brazilians were very excited to be hosting two of the largest upcoming athletic events, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, but after living here for nearly five months, I have witnessed a lot and learned that my conception was far from accurate. The love of soccer is still here, and Brazil has won more World Cup trophies than any other nation. When Brazil was first awarded as the 2014 host, approval ratings were approximately 80 percent, and today these numbers have fallen to below 50 percent. After living here, I can see why many are disappointed.
Brazil has stark social disparities that are extremely visible throughout the city. Along the beach, there are beautiful hotels and condos, but from these places you can see the favelas (slums), and many of the people working in these establishments live in the slums, and would never be able to afford to live or stay in these areas. We discussed in my Portuguese class that the minimum wage in Rio is R$724 per month, which is not much more than $300. I do not know how many people actually have a salary that low, but even if restaurant workers made more this, it would still be extremely challenging to live off of that amount. Brazil does not have a cheap cost of living, I have noticed that some things are cheaper than I am used to, but some are much more.
There is, however, not a shortage of money in the country. The government has spent $11 Billion to date on stadium construction, and some of the stadiums have been built in cities without teams to use them after the tournament is over. This is why people are so angry. There have been many protests and public strikes to show disgust. It has been eye opening to be living here experiencing this. In the past three weeks, the city bus drivers have been on strike on three separate occasions, causing some professors to cancel class because they rely on the bus to get to work. It was nice having some classes canceled, but it also slows many things down.
The tournament will still be very exciting despite the issues. It is fascinating that I am currently living in the country that the entire world is watching. I live three blocks from the famous Copacabana Beach, which is the location of the Fifa Fan Zone, where there will be famous music groups performing along with a jumbo-tron to watch the games. I am looking forward to being part of the excitement watching the games on the beach. I can’t think of a better place to watch, than maybe the stadiums themselves.
On a different note: one of my classes has already ended, and to receive grades, the professor emailed the class list with everyone’s grades, and even highlighted the names of students who failed! (Thankfully I did well) This was crazy for me to see, but I think that this is common at my university. My other classes continue until June 10th, and I don’t go back to DC until July 1st, so this leaves me a few free weeks to be in Rio and travel a little bit. I have decided to visit Salvador, São Paulo, Foz do Iguaçu, and then spend my final few days in Rio. I am looking forward to exploring some other parts of this beautiful country because I don’t know how long it will be until I return, but I definitely will be back at some time in the future.