Listen to executives and politicians and they will hammer home the L-word, legacy, as what hosting a major sports event is all about. The P-word too. People.
“It’s for them.”
But a major sports event is remembered around the globe for something more simple that that. The action. The goals. The magical moments on the field of play. And that’s the reason Brazil 2014 is likely to be remembered as a glorious month, despite all the serious political and social concerns behind it.
You never hear anyone talking about how the World Cup benefitted South Africans or otherwise do you? There is no ‘watercooler’ conversation about whether the Athens Olympics was a key component in the downfall of Greece.
But I still talk about World Cup matches from the 70s, 80s and 90s all the time. Many of us do. And Olympic moments. Even WINTER Olympic moments.
Notice I didn’t mention recent World Cup tournaments. I’m afraid people won’t look back at Germany and South Africa with great fondness through no fault of the organisers, who did a fantastic job, a thankless job, extremely well.
But the football was, well, it wasn’t great was it. There seemed to be far less breathtaking moments in those two tournaments together than we’ve already had in Brazil.
The tone was set here from the start. We all went to a riot and thankfully a game of football broke out. A thriller in the sense it was so tense, so important for Brazil to win.
If Neymar’s goal against Croatia set Brazil’s campaign alight, it was Van Persie’s header that made it burst into colourful flames. What a header. WHAT a header. And what a result. We will talk about the day the Netherlands humiliated Spain for many years to come. It will be discussed long after we’ve all gone.
The goals, great games and surprises are coming thick and fast, including Costa Rica’s demonstration of how football can confound, delight and give pride to a nation. Who could have foreseen them coming from behind to beat Uruguay?
The goals per game ratio for the opening days was better than Sweden 1958, of which comparison would be unfair. That was a time of far more goals. Could this become the best World Cup in history? Of course it could.
I’m a Londoner who covered the London Olympics, which are considered by many, (with Sydney the oft-mentioned rival) to be the best ever.
You’d have to have been in the UK to see the levels of grumbling, indifference, apathy and suspicion until the last few months. Eventually the opening ceremony galvanised a nation that hadn’t been galvanised for a long time.
It’s a familiar pattern. Sochi’s Winter Olympics were going to be disaster. They weren’t were they so why the sniping? Vancouver 2010 was a success, so was Beijing 2008.
That doesn’t meant to say there weren’t legitimate political objections to these events and that legacy works. Olympic organisers told me it takes a decade to measure. Are they REALLY measuring in a decade or have they moved on? Which one do you think?
So I feel, we ALL feel, for the Brazilian people who want money spent on more important things. What is life without health and housing. These are essentials, football should never replace them.
So defining the success of Brazil shouldn’t really be a hit or miss answer. The truth is it will be both a success and a failure.
A failure to control spending and divert money to more needy causes.
A success, because the football has lifted the soul.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport