Seen it all before

One of the biggest eye-openers you can have is seeing a story in the press of which you have personal knowledge.
When you read the article, you can marvel at just how inaccurate and mis-representative the reporter or journalist is being.
Applying this new-found enlightenment to other stories in the media can lead to chronic cynicism when reading newspapers or perusing internet news sites. You may suddenly find that you want to take the content with an appropriately sized pinch of salt. Builder’s Warehouse sell 25kg bags of salt for exactly this purpose. Buy a couple – they’ll will last you a week.

Of course, it could be that you just got unlucky and that all the other stories out there are 100% bang on, deadly accurate.
But that seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it?

And it was with a heavy and cynical heart that I read the latest attack on Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup in the Guardian.

And so to 2014. Three years ago, when Brazil was unveiled as the host of the next World Cup, the country’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promised a tournament so well organised that even his country’s greatest rivals – the Argentinians – would be unable to criticise it. Now, however, even Brazilians are starting to speak out against the lack of progress in stadium construction and infrastructure projects, amid concern over corruption and bad planning and calls for the number of host cities to be cut from 12 to 10.

It’s exactly what they were saying about South Africa 4 years ago. And that’s got me on the phone to my local salt mine.

Because the issues over crime and security were unfounded. The allegations that the stadiums would not be ready or would not be up to standard were nonsense. Our transport system upgrades were completed and well utilised. And when the media realised this, they moved on to more trivial, more foolish stories of snakes, race wars and the like.

I know you’re as thankful as I am that SA stayed free of significant seismological activity during the tournament.

The Guardian article describes Brazil’s 2014 bid as being “ambitious”. Well, good. What were they expecting? Brazil to submit their bid documents detailing six 50-year-old stadiums and hope that visitors will find their way around on foot, noting that it might be a long walk from Rio to some of the stadiums in the north of the country?

And then the dig at the transport infrastructure:

Even in the country’s affluent south-east, motorways are often crater-ridden dual carriageways; in the poorer north-east and mid-west their standard is frequently life-threateningly bad.

Has Tom Phillips actually relied on anything other than hearsay and his own creative licence before reporting that? Because it does sound like much of the stuff I was hearing about South Africa in the (elongated) run-up to the 2010 World Cup. And I know that a lot of that wasn’t actually true – or was at the very least blown out of all proportion. Who could forget Louise Taylor’s nonsense in the… er… Guardian (and which I dealt with ever so briefly at the bottom of this)?

Marcotti wrote of some long, unpleasant drives in the dark after covering matches. Commenting on the lack of dual carriageways and lit highways in certain areas, he described negotiating one road heading towards Jo’burg as “like snorkelling in a sewer filled with squid ink”. Shortly afterwards came the sad news that a German journalist had been killed in a car accident while driving to a Confederations Cup match.

Personally I’d have preferred the 2010 World Cup to have gone to Egypt. Yes, it would have been very hot (although it’s a dry heat) and it would, in places, have been dirty and ultra-chaotic, but it would also have been friendly and welcoming. And, in terms of crime, Egypt is extremely safe. Eyebrows would doubtless have been raised at the potential for organisational mayhem, the nightmarish Cairo traffic and the downtown air pollution, but surely if the Egyptians could build the pyramids they could host a World Cup.

Of course, the Egyptians did host the World Cup back in 4010 BC and it was a highly lauded tournament – but with their abilities as pyramid builders, it was always going to be a success. And this even though many of their roads were very poorly lit.
And South Africa’s success some 6000 years later was achieved despite it going dark at night. Amazing.

But I digress.

Maybe Brazil are behind schedule. Maybe the transport infrastructure is poor. Maybe there is political interference at every level (perish the though that this would occur anywhere else in the world).
But I don’t believe all I read in the newspapers. And I’ve seen what can be achieved in four years and thus I refuse to write them off already. Looking at many of the comments below Phillips’ piece, I can see that a lot of others are losing faith with these stories too.

Of course, when Brazil isn’t ready and the 2014 tournament is in disarray, Phillips will be able to look back and tell us that he told us so. But where is Louise Taylor’s admission that she got it so very hopelessly wrong about South Africa in 2010?

Força, Brasil!