COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — In the midst of what is potentially the most exhilarating and contentious world cup in recent history, 32 national teams have gathered to participate in the world’s favorite sporting event, much to the chagrin of Brazilian protesters. Over the past few months, local protestors have charged the Brazilian government’s inattention to basic physical and social infrastructure as irresponsible and unjust to the thousands of Brazilians who would prefer schools, hospitals and roads to a month-long campaign to host the country’s favorite sport. And who could blame them? At over $11 billion, Brazil has spent almost three times as much to host the world cup than South Africa did just four years ago, and more money than any other country in history, according to MSNBC. Here are four ways the nation could have spent its money to produce greater social impact.
1. Finance UNICEF Three Times Over
In 2012, UNICEF’s expenditures totaled $3,866 million—roughly one third of the cost that Brazil has spent hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In just one year, UNICEF “responded to 286 emergencies of varying scale in 79 countries,” provided life-saving treatment to 1.9 million children under the age of five, delivered clean water to 18.8 million people, and supplied 1.4 million measles vaccines to children in the Syrian Arab Republic, to name just a few of its operations. Imagine the social impact UNICEF would have with the funds used to finance the World Cup.
2. Provide Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
According to the World Health Organization, halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation would cost as little as $10 billion—just $ 1 billion less than hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. To put that in perspective, $10 billion of the $11 billion spent on the 2014 FIFA World Cup would provide 1.25 billion people with access to improved sanitation facilities, and 374 million people with access to safe drinking water. Or, put another way, the total number who would benefit from gaining access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services from $10 billion would be able to fill up the Maracanã stadium, the largest stadium used in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, over 17,000 times. That’s a lot of hydrated fans.
3. Fund the World Food Programme for Over Two Years
In 2013, the World Food Programme distributed 3.1 million tons of food to 80.9 million people. Funded entirely by voluntary donations, the WFP’s budget for 2013 was $4,380 million—a fraction of the cost that Brazil spent on the World Cup. Instead of spending billions of dollars on stadiums with short-lived shelf lives, the Brazilian government could have improved the lives of hundreds of millions by instead donating its funds to the WFP.
4. End World Hunger by a Third
Ending world hunger never sounds easy, but the financial means to achieve it are miniscule compared to the budgets of Western economic powerhouses. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations claimed in 2008 that it only costs $30 billion annually to end world hunger. Although the funds procured to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup would not completely satisfy that price tag, $11 billion would go a long way in reducing food shortages and hunger.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup isn’t a disaster; millions of fans have flocked to Brazil to cheer for their favorite teams, and the local economy has certainly seen increased demand. Yet, it goes to show that the vast sums of money spent on sports entertainment would go so much further in the hands of the organizations that work for the world’s poor.
– Joseph McAdams