The Summer Olympic Games are the second most-watched sporting event in the world, and the next edition of those will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the summer of 2016.
The one event that surpasses the Olympics in global eyeballs, however, is the World Cup, which begins Thursday with a match between Brazil and Croatia.
The numbers indicate that there are many, many soccer fans in the world, but this is a swimming website, so we know not all of our readers will be fans of the ‘beautiful game.’
Prefer your athletes sans clothing? There’s still a good reason to keep your eyes on what happens with the World Cup, and that’s because its central city is the same as the central city for the 2016 Olympics.
Rio, and Brazil as a whole, has brought many, many concerns for Olympic fans, largely centered around safety and health of participants, spectators, and professional attendees (coaches, media, organizers).
The U.S. Department of State rates Brazil as “critical” in overall crime and safety, which is the most dangerous rating given by the OSAC. While local officials have made huge efforts to try to clean up some of the worst ‘favelas’ in the country, it’s still not clear that overall, a significant impact has been made.
The government of Brazil knows the stakes, and knows that the eyes of the world will be watching for the next three years. Criminals in Brazil, however, also know that the country will see an influx of visitors, often naive, careless, and wealthy, in that same time period to observe the Olympic Games and the World Cup.
And for those who do not follow soccer, nor do they care to, that’s why the next month worth of World Cup matches will be significant. No, the World Cup will not test venue readiness, nor will it test cleanliness of the natural facilities used in the Olympics for sports like open water swimming that is not necessarily relevant to soccer.
The World Cup will, however, test what the reaction will be to these influxes of crowds. Will Brazil band together and call a hiatus to crime in the name of national economic improvement? Will criminals take advantage of the opportunity and hit easy targets? Will government officials successfully strategize to combat crime, and will the effects of the above be short-term or long-term?
In this regard, the World Cup will serve as a benchmark for the upcoming Olympic Games: a chance to sink or swim.