In the context of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, urbanization matters.
In today’s globalized environment, urbanization — and its timing — is critically important. Many of today’s cities came of age during the second half of the 20th century when urban change worldwide was dictated, in large part, by Cold War associated needs and demands.
To reiterate what’s been said in previous posts, after World War II the US became obsessed with the war against communism and the idea of containment. The overarching US objective was to prevent Soviet penetration of emerging nations. The USSR, on the other hand, was determined to prevent “capitalist encirclement” of its territories and was eager to prove its economic and industrial prowess.
The widely differing positions of the two superpowers resulted in a competitive grand strategy which provoked an intense rivalry centered on providing military and economic assistance to less developed nations. Much of this assistance involved “global flows” that shaped the form and organizations of cities where FIFA World Cup soccer has been played.
By the mid-1950s, each superpower believed that the success of its grand strategy depended on “winning” the Third World.
The competition to supply military and economic assistance, including weapons, technology, and expert advice accelerated. It was in this environment that ‘development theory’ was conceived and that urban growth accelerated.
Nevertheless, the clash of Cold War grand strategies in the Cold War period is almost always excluded from urban analysis. In other words, America’s actions in response to the Soviet threat haven’t been considered as variables in the post World War II urbanization process even though their ramifications influenced the built environment, demography, and political economy of widely dispersed urban areas. Nor have Soviet policies designed to prevent ‘capitalist encirclement’ been weighed.
Instead, the emphasis has been on prevailing theories of modernization, development, dependency, world systems, or the ‘new’ international division of labor (IDOL).
Through these lens, individual players such as the state, the military, and the transnational organization (in this case FIFA) have been unified under the guise of capitalism. However, as we will see in 2014 Brazil, their interests and priorities are quite different. In many instances, the actions of these players have resulted in an on-going contestation between the local and the global.
The Cold War and Urbanization
Cold War forces have rarely been a focus of inquiry regarding urbanization in the less developed world. In fact, until recently, most scholars disregarded the study of Third World cities altogether, focusing instead on metropolitan areas in post industrialized nations, especially the United States and Western Europe. Bureaucracy, fiscal strains, and class implications have been the central themes.
Notably, studies of Third World cities have been absent even though the city often serves as a ‘bellweather’ for the nation as a whole. Important urban occurrences include protests and demonstrations, industrial expansion and entrepreneurial production, and the formation of civil society and political parties.
Still, while cities have traditionally been neglected, a link between the national and the international has been acknowledged at the level of the nation state. Peter Gourevitch has argued that:
The interaction of domestic politics with international is an age old phenomenon and theorists of politics have long known this. The oldest tradition of this kind explores the impact of war. Greek philosophers examined the way wars influenced the constitutions of city-states . . . .
Manuel Castells goes even further by arguing that urban analysts have been misled “into believing that what they saw happening in cities was a product of cities . . . .” He goes on to say that it is critical “to identify the underlying processes which become manifest in the urban environment.”
Some of the issues that need to be discussed revolve around effects stemming from the sorts of transactions which alter urban form, particularly flows of money, goods, people, and messages across international boundaries. These types of transactions are certainly observable in the case of FIFA and the 2014 World Cup.
An important contribution, also, is the critique of the structural model of change in which it is argued that an exclusive focus on the power capabilities of states ignores the impact of domestic and transnational actors.
So what are the issues now affecting Brazilian cities as they prepare for FIFA’s 2014 World Cup? What are the contestations and protests taking place and who do they involve?
In my post on Global Threats, I discussed two specific problems regarding Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The first involved the informal sector and street vendors; the second, the bulldozing of marginal housing or favelas. However, these are not the only issues that need to be addressed. In addition to worries about how the World Cup is affecting the less fortunate population of Brazil’s cities, the Brazilian government is concerned with perceived challenges to national identity and growing concerns regarding cultural terrorism.
Brazil is building two brand new stadiums and remodeling another 10 for World Cup tournament play. When the games are over, the country will be left with a glut of state-of-the art arenas. The government’s worry is that many Brazilians who supported teams in the past will be priced out of the new facilities as administrators look to gentrify the soccer-going public to increase income.
Deputy sports minister Luis Fernandez told Reuters:
To have socially exclusive stadiums as a result of the World Cup investments is not the legacy we want. . . . Some stadium administrators are quite explicit in saying that, to be economically feasible, they would have to shift the type of attendance at games. . . .But if you want to shift the social origin of the spectators so you can have people that can afford to buy other merchandise and food besides tickets, that could be a negative side effect.
The food and merchandise comment, particularly, is interesting because, until recently, there has been nothing to buy inside Brazilian stadiums except basic fast food and soft drinks. Observers say that
supporters often prefer to buy counterfeit merchandise from unlicensed street vendors, know as camelos, in front of the stadium.
The stadium controversy brings up several issues, among them the whole idea of privatization and public/private partnerships. Nine of Brazil’s 12 World Cup stadiums are owned by the governments of the respective states and, after the World Cup, they will be handed over to private administrators who want to make money from selling merchandise inside.
Football had and has a very central role in building national identity in Brazil. . . . So we are very concerned with that aspect and will be dealing with it in terms of national and state legislation.
National identity also comes to play in another issue involving a local food and street vendors.
According to a Global Voices article, Brazilians are accusing FIFA of “stamping out local culture.” Residents are reportedly angry because World Cup authorities refuse to allow street vendors in the northeastern city of Salvador, one of Brazil’s 10 World Cup cities.
The vendors affected are women in the state of Bahia who prepare and sell acaraje, a dish made from fried black-eyed peas and a spicy filling. The food is of African origin and has become a symbol of Brazilian culture. It is traditionally sold in and around stadiums during football matches in Bahia’s capital city of Salvador.
A local street vendor association says
A FIFA resolution forbids any street trading within a two kilometer radius of all World Cup stadiums. This excludes Brazilian traditional food sellers . . .
The association demands that vendors be free to sell around the stadium area during the World Cup just as they have been doing for non World Cup matches. Moreover, the “baianas do acaraje,” as the street vendors are known, have taken to the streets in their typical all-white cotton dresses, headscarves, and caps to demand their right to sell the dish.
The Global Voices article goes on to discuss another instance of cultural terrorism, this time involving the naming of a stadium in Brasilia. According to the article, the name of Mane Garrincha, one of Brazil’s most famous soccer players who played for Brazil’s national team from 1955 to 1966, was removed from the National Stadium in Brasilia at FIFA’s bidding. FIFA supposedly defended the decision, saying that the World Cup is an event of “international interest” so the names of game sites should be consistant. The uproar spread to Twitter where Professor Cesar Oliveira posted:
One can’t put the name Mane Garrincha, nor sell acaraje! What is the point of having a crap FIFA’s World Cup if we can’t even be who we are.
Rui Mora wrote on the Mundo Botafogo football blog dedicated to Garrincha’s former team:
Garrincha was an ace with worldwide prestige, the best player ever, according to many opinions. Since when does FIFA rule a country? If the stadium was called Pele (considered by many the best player of all time, Pele, who won the World Cup of 1958, 1962, and 1970, promotes football worldwide together with FIFA), would it be okay? And the Members of Congress will accept that reduction of the country’s sovereignty by accepting something stated as not stated?
In an effort to contain the damage, FIFA has provided assurances that Brazil 2014 will enjoy a local flavor.
Inside World Football writes:
FIFA has respoded swiftly to accusations of “cultural terrorism” in Brazil and that they have interfered in the renaming of stadia and have banned street vendors from the vicinity of World Cup venues.
. . . we have reached an agreement that acaraje will indeed be sold inside the Fonte Nova stadium and your information regarding the baianas (the traditional sellers of acaraje) is not true. In fact they will be involved in the preparation and sale of the acarajes inside the stadium.
So far as the naming of the stadium in Brasilia is concerned, FIFA says Garrincha’s name was never on the stadium. A FIFA spokesman said:
FIFA has never and will never tell any stadium owner how to name the respective stadium.
I guess it will be some time before the true story is revealed. For now — and in the context of Cold War Studies — it’s enough to say that the forces shaping urbanization during the half century Cold War are still at play.
Furthermore, the past tells me that once an urban legend or a conspiracy theory takes hold, its very difficult to dislodge, especially in instances where the local and the global are in conflict.
Photograph by Rodrigues Pozzebom (Agência Brasil)