Brazil's World Cup Stadiums Were A Colossal Waste Of Money

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One of the major concerns of the Brazilian people in the run-up to last summer’s World Cup was the prudence of a financially-troubled nation spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on stadiums. The stadiums were criticized for their opulence, their number, and their location. As it turns out, the critics were right.

NPR has a report updating us on the stadium situation in Brazil. The picture is bleak.

The most expensive World Cup stadium — located in the capital, Brasilia, and with a price tag of $550 million — is being used as a parking lot for buses.

The stadium in Cuiaba — which cost some $215 million to build — has made news repeatedly: first for being closed down because of faulty construction, and then recently for the homeless people squatting in its unused locker rooms.


The stadium in Natal is trying to make money by hosting weddings and kids’ parties — with little luck. The company that owns it is putting it up for sale; it’s had cash flow problems after being implicated in the state oil scandal in Brazil.

And the much touted Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, which costs $233,000 a month to run, also is being sold to the private sector — even though it was built primarily with public funds.


In the wrong-headed desire to impress FIFA with their bid, Brazil’s World Cup committee promised all sorts of massive stadiums in far-flung locales. The idea was that the revenue generated in sparsely-populated areas would be a boon in the short term, and when the tournament was over, these money-generating venues could be put to further use. That hasn’t been the case.

Leânderson Lima, a sports reporter in Manaus, says one problem with these four stadiums is that they were built in places with no strong local football teams to support them.


José Cruz, a sports reporter for Universo Online who lives in Brasilia, says the stadium there holds 70,000 people. The idea was that big concerts could generate income for the venue, but that hasn’t been the case.

American rock band KISS skipped it on its tour in the region, for instance.

“They came to Brasília, but they didn’t do the concert inside the stadium, they did outside, because of the high costs,” he says. “That shows how ill-prepared the government is to manage a big sports venue and transform it in source of revenue.”


You may remember that the more lasting remnants of all this World Cup investment were supposed to be the infrastructural ones—the new or renovated airports, improved public transportation, etc. Those plans were put on the back burner while they rushed construction of the actual stadiums so that, you know, they could host the games of the World Cup. And where does the country now stand on the infrastructure development?

Multiple officials — including the state’s former governor, the former president of the local assembly and the former local World Cup head — are all under investigation for another “legacy work” from the event. The $800 million light railway in Cuiaba linking the airport to the city center was meant to be completed in time for the games, but of the 14-mile track, so far only half a mile has been built.

If there’s any good thing about the whole World Cup debacle, it’s that it’s now mostly over. Sure, the country wasted billions when they would’ve been much better served investing for their own benefit, and they’ll likely be paying off those debts incurred for generations, but at least they’ve stopped the rot.

And hey, maybe they’ve learned from their mistakes and will be able to do better next time. They are, after all, hosts of the summer Olympics next year. They have to realize the opportunity to right some of last summer’s wrongs, right?

In Brazil, it’s so acknowledged how disastrous the World Cup legacy was for the country that the current sports minister actually promised in an interview with Reuters that unlike the World Cup, “the Olympics will leave a legacy.”

That event is also over budget and behind schedule.

Well, maybe they’ll at least come away from this one with a couple medals.