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The looming World Cup legacy in Brazil; the ongoing issue of stadiums and post-tourney use

Jun 15, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT

Brazil Soccer Confed Cup Preparations

As we are now less than a year away from World Cup 2014, and as the Confederation Cup begins today in Brazil, it was all too predictable that discussions would begin on this sticky wicket:

The issue of stadiums around a World Cup, their cost and, more specifically, their looming dis-use and burden after the fact, is already topical around Brazil.

As it should be … because this will always be a problem, although far more so in lesser developed countries.

This story from Bloomberg begins digging into the numbers involved, at the costs versus the return and the concern over whether too many of the 12 stadiums hosting matches will become “White Elephant” burdens?

Remember Romario, the Brazilian scoring wiz who helped his country to the 1994 World Cup crown here in the United States? He is now a member of Brazil’s Parliament, and here is what he says in the Bloomberg piece:

“I find it ridiculous. Obviously they didn’t do a financial viability study for these stadiums for after the tournament.”

As I mentioned, this is no new problem – although it is less a factor in places like the United States or Germany, where less money is required to improve facilities and infrastructure to meet the big event needs.

For this piece two-plus years ago at, here is what South African-born author and journalist For Neal Collins said about the 2010 World Cup’s legacy of empty stadiums. “The white elephants, 10 magnificent football stadiums lying empty and unused , serve as a constant reminder of the expensive legacy of the FIFA World Cup.”

Not all are completely useless, of course, but the under-use of too many of them in subsequent years was a problem that was far too predictable.

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl also used the “White Elephant” theme to expand on the empty legacy in this piece back in 2010. The United States was playing a friendly in Cape Town at the time – but the significance wasn’t lost, as it was just the third event hosted in the massive facility since the World Cup hade come and gone five months earlier.

  1. noahbird - Jun 15, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Definitely a problem for developing nations, but the money at the top is too big.

  2. mvktr2 - Jun 15, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER with these stadiums being built …. by private individuals/corporations. The reality though is that liberty is dead in all nations around the world and that we all live under varying degrees of fascism/corporatism. “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini

    That is exactly what is going on with the building of these stadiums, the combination of state and corporate power and it’s THE ONLY REASON SO MANY OF THESE THINGS GET BUILT! If the WC were a privately funded and hosted event it would be put on in a far more fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. As is it’s a raiding of ‘public’ funds, generally a financial rape.

    I suspect if fully privately funded/operated the WC would be a multi-nation event with 1-3 existing venues used in various nations per round culminating in the semis & finals being held in one ‘high bidder’ location, or some similar format.

  3. footballer4ever - Jun 15, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    The White Elephant effects should fall on Fifa’s shoulders to be pro-active to encourage and bring high profile national teams/football clubs to those stadiums. In the end, when greed and corruption is the main motivation, people tend to look up to the tip of their noses by not building those stadiums for post WC use as well. Shame on local politicians and shame on FIFA.

  4. bobinkc - Jun 15, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    noah, you need to consider the burden on “developed” nations, too. Could the United States build that many purpose-built stadia and then find uses for all of them after the games were concluded? I think not. Oh, I suppose you could argue their use by MLS teams after the Cup was over, but how many cities could fill a World Cup stadium? Add in the fact that all of the stadia need to be built within a reasonable distance of the final, what part of the US could support them post-Cup? I just don’t see it, even for the “developed” nations with the current economic situation.

    • genebrooklyn - Jun 16, 2013 at 12:47 AM

      No way would the US need to build any new stadiums in order to host a World Cup (our bid last time around said as much).

      But the real question remains—why should US cities pay a penny toward baseball, football, soccer stadiums for private owners? Let the football, baseball and soccer owners put up their own dollars for their palaces.

      • mvktr2 - Jun 16, 2013 at 1:28 AM

        AMEN genebrooklyn. Per your comments and my comments above I was thrilled when I heard that MLS would be providing complete funding to purchase land and build the NY2 franchise’s stadium. Corporatism must die, it’s financial and societal suicide.

  5. ndnut - Jun 15, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Bob, we can use our existing NFL stadiums. Many have grass and hold enough people for it to be effective.

  6. talgrath - Jun 17, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    I recall when I lived in Utah during the Olympics there, I went and saw ice hockey down in Provo, UT. A massive, beautiful ice rink that I was very impressed with at the time, but my thought was “How is little old Provo going to get any use out of this after the games?”, sure enough, the place is practically unused now.

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