Brazil 2014’s venue in Salvador is in danger of becoming a white elephant

Remember the pre-World Cup protests in Brazil? Something about excessive spending, wasn’t it? Wasting public funds on FIFA vanity projects, while corruption and poverty were rampant and the people needed bread, not circuses?

Probably best not to tell the demonstrators that the rebuilt $185 million stadium in Salvador is already being abandoned by its club tenant, Bahia, who is returning to its old arena, according to the Mirror.

This seems to be in part a negotiating ploy, with the club saying in a statement that “Bahia is still open to negotiations to play at the Fonte Nova arena if the [stadium owners’] consortium values and respects fans … and treats them well”.

But it seems as if every major sports tournament pledges to leave a “legacy” and talks earnestly about “sustainability,” but just a few months later, the more apt buzzphrase is “white elephant.”

The $1 billion Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, for example. So far its main legacy has been to the local public transport company who is using the parking lot as a bus depot. As the BBC points out, the club teams in the capital city aren’t popular enough to justify the matchday costs of using the 72,000-capacity venue. So the stadium will get used only for special occasions, like internationals, or the 2016 Olympics. Or maybe the World Conference of Public Transport Professionals.

As for the craziest stadium of all, Manaus in the Amazon: it’s a 44,000-capacity venue in a city where the local championship gets average attendances of 659, the BBC reports. Other stadiums have attendance problems leading to losses – even the Maracana.

FIFA, of course, is long gone, counting its profits and looking forward to Russia. And though Qatar can afford the waste, what is a country of two million people that isn’t especially passionate about soccer going to do with eight or nine large stadiums after its World Cup?

As for South Africa 2010? Those pre-tournament “White Elephant” fears have been realized. With even the Cape Town arena becoming a financial drain, imagine the strain on the small cities of Polokwane and Nelspruit, with their 45,000 capacity stadiums and no credible tenants.

It’s a consequence of the World Cup’s bloated size and grandiose ambitions, as well as the desire for regional governments to soak up grants and build stadiums so their provincial cities can enjoy their month in the spotlight.

Remember all that fuss about whether Brazil’s stadiums would be finished on time? Maybe it wasn’t worth the rush.