San Paulo Subway Strike Adds More Problems for World Cup

San Paulo Subway Strike Adds More Problems for World Cup

The World Cup kicks off on Thursday, June 12 in soccer-crazy Brazil. But due to unfinished projects, promised money not paid, corruption, and poor public transportation, the country is not very excited. Brazil learned the hard way it is not easy to host the world’s largest sports tournament.

On Thursday, subway workers in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, decided to strike after they rejected an 8.7% pay raise. The strike led to two straight days of chaos and massive protests in front of metro stations. On Friday, the police used tear gas to break up one protest and the streets were packed with cars. A judge will review the case on Monday, only three days before kickoff.

Reuters reported the much-needed airport upgrades will be finished just in time, but many of the promised public transportation modes never started or will not be finished until after the World Cup. A $16 million bullet train between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo did not leap off the drawing board. President Dilma Rousseff opened the rapid bus system between Rio’s airport to Barra da Tijuca, but only 22 of the 47 stations will work for the tournament. The system was designed specifically for the World Cup, not even half of it will work until afterwards.

“We never had problems walking,” said former President Luiz Lula da Silva and told people to go “on foot, barefoot, by bike, by donkey.”

Brazil will have brilliant and outstanding soccer stadiums, but what are they worth after the tournament? One out of ten stadiums in South Africa is still profitable for the nation. The other nine “are in the red, unable to attract regular top sporting clashes or international rock stars.” The residents in the cities have to pick up the tab, which could cause more problems for Brazil. The country decided to have 12 hosting cities instead of eight and that meant Brazil had to pick from second-level cities that can barely support a tournament. These cities received new stadiums, but the residents want the money spent on hospitals and public services.

“People are disgusted,” says party supply store owner Mariana Faria. “Nobody wants to spend money on something now associated with waste and corruption.”

Her store is down in profits by 40% compared to the South Africa World Cup, which is a great indicator of how Brazilians feel. From Reuters:

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.

Anarchist group Black Bloc has promised on more than one occasion to disrupt at least one World Cup game. Unfortunately, the citizens tend to trust the group more than the police because of corruption. Brazil has the seventh highest homicide rate in the world and the majority of crimes are not solved.

That is not even the worst of it. Brazil had to take time to remind visitors that child prostitution is illegal, but activists said the government has never done enough to protect the children and this caused child prostitution to become an epidemic in the country. From The London Times:

A study by a parliamentary commission of inquiry in Sao Paulo reported this week that there had been an increase in child prostitution and sex abuse around the Corinthians stadium, where the World Cup opening ceremony will be held on June 12. Other investigations suggest that child prostitutes are being placed by pimps around other World Cup stadiums, including the Maracana in Rio.

The first game is Brazil vs. Croatia at 3PM CT on ESPN on Thursday.