The World Cup raised important questions that have yet to be answered: was it worth it? Will it pay off financially? What will the legacy be?
Another question I'm interested in: does it mark a shift in how Brazilians see themselves compared to the rest of the world? Is it the beginning of the end of the so-called mutt complex?
When Brazil was awarded the tournament in 2007, leaders envisioned it as a coming-out party, a chance to show the world how much had changed and how the country had become a global player. In spite of the international scrutiny and criticism leading up to the games, the truth is that Brazil really had come a long way since the last time it hosted the World Cup in 1950. Dictatorships gave way to democracy; hyperinflation ended and gave way to growth. Stability replaced uncertainty, and a drop in poverty and the growth of the new middle class transformed the country. The Brazil of even 1994 and the Brazil of 2014 were different places. And though the government didn't deliver on all of its World Cup development promises, enough projects came together in time to hold a spectacular event.
But the same anxiety about what the world would find in Brazil remained evident, particularly in the press, even after the tournament. Before the games, public opinion surveys found a lot of pessimism about the World Cup, due in part to anger about social issues that drove the 2013 protests. But some of the pessimism may also have been due to worries about what would happen if the tournament went poorly. "Imagine during the World Cup!" and "Only in Brazil," some lamented about Brazil's problems and resulting frustrations that would be on display for the world to see. Cláudia Vassallo, business unit publisher of top Brazilian business magazine Exame, wrote an op-ed in May that shows this idea. Excerpts below:
"The biggest price [to pay], until now, is the discouragement, the general unease, the sensation that we are a proven wretched society, second class, that doesn't manage to plan, that doesn't manage to follow through, that's incapable of control, that's impotent to put a stop to things - [it's] not a matter of holding the Cup, but the disasters exposed via satellite on occasions like this one.
We're afraid of being embarrassed in front of the world. We're tormented about what they're going to say about us abroad, about our airports, our highways, our hospitals."
"The Cup doesn't have the power to transform Brazil...and that's where the problem lies: at some point, we believed that we could pretend to be something that we're not. Nations are like families. We don't want our anger, our bitterness, our discord, and our misery to be exposed.
It's always more comfortable to sweep everything under the carpet. Maybe this could have been done if the world hadn't changed since 1950, and if everything boiled down to the national passion, to football. Evidently, that's not the case."
When the games went well for the most part, there was a sense of relief, but there was still evidence of the anxiety about foreigners' perceptions. I spotted pieces like this one in the Brazilian press: "Congratulations, Brazil, says Scottish journalist who took 29 flights without delays." Pollster Datafolha did a survey about what tourists thought about the games, asking about Brazil's performance as a host, public security, transportation, stadiums, protests, hospitality, and other issues. The results, unsurprisingly, were largely positive: 83 percent approved of the organization of the tournament, and 69 percent said they'd like to live in Brazil. It's the kind of thing that makes you picture Brazilians thinking: "They love us, they really love us!"
Still, the idea that there was a greater focus on issues other than soccer before and after the Cup means things could be changing. With another mega-event coming up in two years, time will tell to see if and how Brazilians see themselves on the international stage.
Image: Fans at the 2014 World Cup. Paulisson Miura.