Brazil's a big country, and there are 12 host cities, so it's hard to generalize. But the impression I'm getting, particularly from those in Rio and São Paulo, is that there's a definitive lack of anticipation.
Some in Rio say that in past World Cups, the process of decorating the streets with paint and streamers--often done through fundraisers through neighborhood associations--started earlier, whereas now, it hasn't happened yet, or is just starting. World Cup decorations just aren't up around the city, they say. "You wouldn't know there's a World Cup on the way," one Carioca said. Some say they notice a definitive lack of excitement in comparison to past Cups, and identified a different, less animated atmosphere.
Here are some of the things I've heard from Cariocas and Paulistas.
"The prevailing feeling is one of pessimism and a certain indifference."
"There's general dispiritedness."
"We're spending billions and our problems continue, and will continue."
Frustrated by corruption, Brazilians are "crossing their arms once again."
"Now that we know how the event is done, we've lost our enthusiasm."
"Nobody's in the mood."
Surveys show a similar trend. An April Datafolha poll found that 55 percent of Brazilians think the World Cup will hurt the country more than it will help it. This number actually rose since last June by 11 percentage points. Plus, Cariocas in particular are feeling pessimistic: a May poll found that 46 percent of Rio residents have a negative outlook on Brazil.
Maybe it's that people care more about local clubs that the national team, one journalist pointed out. Maybe people will get more into the Cup once the games start, especially if Brazil does well. But in the meantime, perhaps there's a hangover from last year's protests, or maybe people are just tired of the consequences of the event preparation, such as billions of taxpayer reais spent on stadiums with cases of overbilling and corruption in the process.
But there's no going back now, so in the face of this unease, how are people anticipating the games?
First, there are the strikes, particularly in Rio. Public school teachers are now on strike, bus workers are on strike for at least 48 hours, and federal police are threatening to go on strike during the World Cup. And now airline workers from Lan and TAM are threatening to go on strike during the games. As I wrote in March, this is the critical time that workers have to pressure employers into salary raises, or risk serious imbroglios during the World Cup.
Meanwhile, some are taking advantage of the event to point out Brazil's problems. Journalist Mauricio Savarese writes that some of the elite are exposing their frustration with being Brazilian (also known as the complexo de vira-lata.) One company, he shows, even printed tee-shirts with the words "Down with this underdeveloped Brazil." Savarese explains: "They poison the tone about Brazil hosting the World Cup more than the mistakes and bad planning in the run-up to football’s extravaganza." Plus, he adds, "Many are kidnapping the very social agenda they disagree with to make shallow and politically disengaged criticism."
Finally, there are some using the run-up to the games for activism purposes. For example, Rio de Paz has been running a campaign to protest World Cup spending and corruption in comparison to social spending. They also organized an event in which they painted the street and decorated it with flags, and then held a protest dressing up as hospital patients.
Image: A street in downtown Rio ahead of the 2010 World Cup. (Paisagem Grafica da Cidade)