Monday, November 26, 2007

The Charm and Danger of the Third World

Yesterday a stadium collapsed in Salvador. EC Bahia, one of the traditionally powerful teams in Brazil, has been suffering a terrible five years. Bahia was relegated from the Série A in 2003. In 2004 Bahia finished third in the Série B, missing promotion only by losing the last game of the season. In 2005 Bahia was relegated to the Série C (along with arch-rivals Vítoria). In 2006 the CBF changed the format of the Série C to allow both Bahia and Vitória to achieve promotion in the same year, but only Vítoria found success. This year Bahia guaranteed a return to the Série B with a scoreless game at home against Vila Nova of Goiás.

When the game ended, fans in the lower ring of the stadium stormed the field, and fans in the upper ring began jumping. A section of the concrete gave way, and several fans fell 20 meters. Different reports have claimed that seven, eight, or nine people have died so far.

One of the things that I like so much about Recife is going to see Sport play. The Ilha do Retiro is older than Bahia's Fonte Nova, but it is better maintained. That's a relative to a very poorly maintained stadium, mind you. If you follow the second link above and click on "Veja fotos do estádio" you will see photos of the stadium and the hole in the upper deck. The conditions of the stadium are appalling -- the stands, the bathrooms, the bars, and the locker rooms are all horrible. When you consider that the people who clean the stadium most likely earn between R$400-500 per month, you can understand that they might not be the most motivated workers. What you can't understand is why the club won't just hire a few more so that even without proper motivation or remuneration they can still get the job done.

These old, poorly maintained stadiums are not without their charm. The rough concrete grandstands discourage sitting, and standing and singing makes the experience more involved than watching any first world sporting event. The stadium is dirty, pools of stagnant water lie in the corners, the bathrooms are hopelessly inadequate if the stadium is even half full. But the experience is something altogether different than any in the US. Usually that difference is entirely positive, and when yesterday's tragedy isn't so fresh I'll write more about that, but what Bahia's tragedy drives home is the danger of the official neglect in evidence all over Brazil. There are so many problems here it's impossible to know where to start or how to solve them. Yesterday was one of those days that reminds you that however great Brazil is, and Brazil is great, even when you've avoided armed robbers, corrupt police, and dengue you still aren't safe here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Galvão Bueno Again

I'm not the only one who hates Galvão Bueno. Most of Brazil does. Unfortunately, Rede Globo has a near monopoly on non-cable viewers, so there is no incentive at all to replace unpopular announcers or cancel unpopular programs. Globo also has the broadcast rights to Brazilian soccer, so when Brazil plays World Cup qualifiers, the whole country has no choice but to watch on Globo (or not watch at all, but that's not really an option). This is the only form of protest available: