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HBO’s Real Sports tackles the white elephants of the World Cup and Olympics

The lead story of May’s episode of Real Sports on HBO tackles the World Cup, but in a different way from Jeremy Schaap’s stunning E:60 report on the treatment of workers in Qatar.

Next month’s World Cup in Brazil has resulted in numerous brand new soccer stadiums being built all across the country. Once the World Cup ends, the stadiums will more than likely remain dormant – which is where the “white elephants” title of the segment comes into play. In South Africa four years ago, ten stadiums were built at the cost of billions of dollars. Nine of those stadiums stand relatively unused today.

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The same thing happens when countries host the Olympics – it doesn’t take too much effort to find evidence of stadiums or arenas being built solely to hold events and then be used for nothing or razed years later. The 2004 Olympics in Athens are a stark example of the waste that goes into holding events like the Olympics and the World Cup, as many of the arenas and stadiums built for the events stand empty.

Perhaps even more shocking – the organizers of these events in those host countries openly admit to having no plan for the future of the venues. The Greek economy collapsed in large part to the massive amount of waste that went into the Olympics a decade ago, with the crumbling stadiums as reminders of that waste.

Today, Brazil is preparing by the World Cup by spending more money than any country in history. A brand new, $270 million stadium was built in the remote town of Manaus for just four games this World Cup. Manaus is so remote that many Brazilians can’t even drive there. Materials to build the stadium were shipped from Portugal, across the Atlantic Ocean and transported down the Amazon River. All that for four games in a town that HBO described as “a weigh station.”

The organizers are oblivious to this. The designer of the stadium in Manaus claims that when people watch the games on television, they will become aware of the city, and tourism and investment opportunities will increase. Apparently, eight hours of soccer over the month of June will create all of that goodwill.

For a country like Brazil, bathed in poverty, to burn away billions of dollars on stadiums and arenas for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics is shameful. Once the World Cup ends and Olympics preparation begins, homes in Rio de Janeiro will be razed to make room for the venues, sending many Brazilian citizens into homelessness for the sake of a two week sporting event.

The atrocities in Qatar are obviously an extremely serious situation that deserve all of our attention. But what happens after the event is over also needs to be put under the microscope. In Qatar, the money isn’t a big deal – it seemingly grows on trees. However, in a country like Brazil that is teetering on the edge of financial chaos, dumping billions of dollars into sports while a bulk of your citizens are poor, starving, and lacking healthcare seems like a recipe for a disaster, with nothing but empty stadiums and a page on Wikipedia to show for it when all is said and done.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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