How a yellow jersey is dividing Brazil
At the start of this month in Rio, the World Cup was being remembered for its history and the joy of all who live and breathe the game.
But as the opening of the tournament in the city drew to a close, the story was being told by its hosts in all its many shades. There was the old, when their first games were won at the Maracana in 1946, or when the national team won the inaugural World Cup after a victory in Mexico in 1950. And then there were the new, and it’s perhaps a testament to how much Rio still looks the same that when I arrived there in March, the only thing I noticed was a new neon sign which said RIO. It took me a long time to spot it as something more than a novelty, but today it was hard not to recognise it as a statement by the local authorities. The new building at the south end of the city, the Rio 2016 stadium, is designed by the firm of Gipson Sistol, which built the Sydney Opera House, where the World’s first modernist sporting venue was built in 1954 (the Opera House, which is now a museum, was inspired by the shape of the Rio stadium). The building is in the shape of a swan, with the stadium as its long neck, and the other four sides are given to a series of courtyards and gardens. The building is the most visible manifestation of a more dramatic transformation in the city, when it was decided that it would be an important location for the 2017 World Cup. This stadium and the way in which it has been chosen are not just part of the stadium and the city-building programme of Mayor Eduardo Paes. They are at the centre of the Brazilian psyche.
The World Cup has a way of dividing people – and it has done so for more than 50 years, and it is doing so again today. The story of the opening of the tournament to a television audience is often told through the prism of the World Cup’s “moment of truth”, when a nation decides whether it wants to embrace the sport as a source of pride or simply a way to fill the national coffers. The opening of the World Cup to television audiences may be as important as the moment when the country decided to embrace the sport as a source of national pride. The World Cup is the most global of all sporting events,