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The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Collective reflections about development practice and cities


FIFA, the World Cup, and Development

By Matthew A Wood-Hill, on 7 January 2011

FIFA’s decision on 2 December to declare Russia and Qatar as the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 edition of the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup provides further evidence of the organisation’s strategy of expanding the frontiers of the game and using the event as a catalyst for development and global inclusiveness. This process can be traced back to 2000, when it was announced that consecutive competitions would be rotated by continent, thus providing FIFA President Joseph Blatter with the opportunity to make good on his election promise to take the World Cup to Africa. The principle has since been abandoned, but its intentions remain.

FIFA’s technical report for the South Africa 2010 World Cup bid discussed the opportunity to create “unity among the different ethnic groups that were separated socially, culturally and in sport for years,” and was seen by the Local Organising Committee as have the potential to “help strengthen and consolidate our democracy.” Similarly FIFA sees taking the competition to Brazil in 2014 as benefiting “the population as a whole…in terms of the economy, transport, communication, public services and facilities, safety and the enhancement of sporting facilities.” In these instances FIFA clearly sees the power of football, and its role as the game’s governing body, to contribute towards social change and urban development. Perhaps excited by the far-reaching potentials of the event, the 2018 and 2022 editions have been allocated to Russia and Qatar respectively, irrespective of their inferior technical reports in comparison to rival bids.


Encouraged by FIFA, many countries increasingly view mega-events as a means of furthering their national development priorities. With this in mind it would not be unlikely to see China or India bidding for a World Cup in the near future, or a South African city bidding for the Olympics. But what are the realities? Some commentators have put Greece’s fiscal woes down to the economic burden of the 2004 Olympic Games, followed by the (albeit unforeseen) financial crash. In this regard, it is reassuring that England will not have to bear the burden of a World Cup on top of the bill for the London Olympics; something Brazil will have to contend with over the next decade.

A longer-term view is seldom at the forefront of the minds of authorities who frequently crave prestige and economic returns over satisfying the needs of their people. Countries such as South Africa and Brazil have relied predominantly on public funding for the World Cup, risking an intangible legacy of national debt that could burden citizens for years to come and negating the positive impacts and ‘feel-good factor’ of the occasion.

Above: The Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Robben Bay and next to the popular Victoria & Albert waterfront. Table mountain dominates the background.

Tangible legacies, in particular sports stadia, must have comprehensive plans for re-appropriation. For FIFA (whose projected income from the 2010 World Cup exceeded $1 billion, chiefly through television revenues and sponsorship money) the images projected into millions of households are paramount. The most poignant example of this has been the City of Cape Town’s proposal to redevelop an existing stadium located in one of the city’s deprived neighbourhoods, Athlone. FIFA rejected this suggestion, instead supporting the construction of the now iconic Green Point stadium, framed against Table Mountain and Robben Bay to satisfy the distant viewer. FIFA sponsorship rights are undoubtedly an obstacle to the spreading of wealth among the population: only authorised World Cup sponsors are permitted to operate within a one kilometre radius of stadia on match days, surely limiting the opportunities for local entrepreneurs to benefit directly from the event.

The Qatar 2022 bid proposes twelve stadia, nine of which will be newly constructed. They all lie within 60km of each other raising serious questions over their future beyond the World Cup.

This recent trend of holding the competition in less traditional nations, while admirable in its intent to use the mega-event model as a tool for urban transformation, could be seen as placating the altruistic desires of western societies. The realities of public debt without meaningful opportunities for local people, especially those on lower-incomes, cannot be taken lightly. Is this little more than a new kind of ‘entertainment dependency’? Are nations such as South Africa simply providing a setting to an event that is only really accessible to visitors from richer nations – or indeed from the comfort of their armchairs – while the majority of locals priced out of participating themselves?

The contribution of the World Cup towards meeting development goals can only be fully understood in the long term; measuring success therefore depends on how long it takes for the outcomes to become visible. Russia and Qatar will expect a greater deal of private financing, which will afford cities and their inhabitants their own opportunities and challenges. For these nations, at this early stage of the planning process, the World Cup presents them with unprecedented and unlimited possibilities and concerns.

For a discussion on the impact of the World Cup and Olympic Games on housing rights in São Paulo, see Julia Azevedo Moretti’s blog.

The Impact of Mega Events on Housing Rights

By Tina Ziegler, on 3 November 2010

Post written by: Julia Azevedo Moretti

The impact of private and public projects on housing rights has been a topic of passionate discussion in Brazil recently and it has been so because the country will receive two mega events on the next few years – 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. It will be an opportunity to clarify what extent an innovative legal framework together with a considerably organized social movement will be able to avoid major evictions and manage to translate investment in such projects into a pro poor scenario.

It is well documented that urban development in Brazil is characterized by significant inequalities and socio-spatial segregation. On one hand informality drives the production of urban space and continues to be a major problem. Sao Paulo, i.e., is a city of contrasts: despite being the richest city in the country it has almost 32% of its population (over 3 million people) living in precarious settlements such as slums, old tenement houses and illegal land subdivision. On the other hand Brazil is considered to have an innovative legal framework symbolized by the City Statute. Anyhow, since the poor have limited access to centrally located and well serviced land they hold tight to the land they occupied, but the pressure on such areas is increasing and there is one case that illustrates very well the challenges to come.

Favela da Piscina is a slum located in a central neighbourhood near the highway that leads to the international airport and to an important football stadium. The area has been occupied since the 60s and has been fully developed by the poor families. Self built houses were serviced with infrastructure due to the organization of those who live in the settlement.

According to the Brazilian constitution if someone lives in an urban area for 5 years and finds no opposition from the owner this person is entitle to claim ownership of the land. The City Statute, enacted in 2001, reassures that right and enables communities to claim it collectively (collective adverse possession). The dwellers from Favela da Piscina in three different opportunities (1990, 1996, 1998) have tried to obtain such ownership declaration from a Court of Justice, but had no success. Since the land was considered abandoned they let it be and kept living in the area with no land title. Recently, however, under the influence of market appreciation the owner has claimed the land and 120 families found themselves under the threat of eviction. The land price has gone up with the expansion of the nearby highway, urban regeneration projects in the area and the expectation of higher investments for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In response, the dwellers once more organized themselves to file a law suit aiming to obtain a land title, this time based on the City Statute. Will that be enough?

Such examples are been discussed in academic seminars as well as in mobilization events organized by civil society. It is worth follow one experience called Jornadas pela Moradia Digna in which civil society join forces the Public Defender’s Office to discuss and claim housing rights on behalf and together with poor communities – this year the subject will be exactly the impact of megaevents on housing rights. Hopefully there will be time to reclaim the right to the city, in other words, the right of all who lives in the city to enjoy urban life and have access the benefits of the city as well as to take part in the decision making process.

Image credits: Fig 1 Agnese Canziani, Fig 2 Source: http://www.habisp.inf.br/