1
Jul

World Cup Diary: Brazil reinventing, redefining itself one step at a time

SALVADOR, Brazil —

Brazil wasn’t what I had expected. I’ve been here three weeks now, covering the United States men’s national team across this vast and diverse country, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

The image was strikingly similar to that of the country where I covered the last World Cup, South Africa: A shambolic government that couldn’t get anything done by a deadline, inflicting crippling poverty lived in rambling shantytowns, in a country ruled only by lawlessness. But as it was in South Africa, most construction in Brazil has been completed, or at least looked the part, and I’ve never once felt unsafe.

Sao Paulo, where the United States and its press corps have been based, is a confusing place. There is no containing its sprawl, all of it infested with boxy apartment towers — invariably with terraces adorned with flapping Brazilian flags — pricking the blue sky. The traffic is soul-crushing. On a bad day, you can average less than five miles an hour in your cab or bus. Some days, early in our stay, the subway workers were on strike and it was worse still and you just stood there, thousands of running cars frozen in place.

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28
Jun

World Cup protests are smaller but still emerging in Brazil

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SAO PAULO —

It took a full two weeks at the World Cup for me to see my first demonstration in Brazil. It had been a long day. Following an early-morning flight on the heels of the USA-Portugal game in Manaus, a four-hour plane ride away, a colleague and I had scurried to the Estadio de Sao Paulo to catch the Netherlands-Chile match — insofar as you can scurry in this snarled metropolis at the edge of this tortuous country.

We caught a media bus back after the game, which would drop us off at a hotel close to our own. But as we pulled along a major thoroughfare taking us into our neighborhood — the swanky Barra Funda — the driver stopped the bus cold and opened the doors. In the middle of the road. This bus was going no further.

It took us a minute to realize why. Up the road, people were marching, protestors surrounded by a human wall of police in full riot gear, barely discernible through the black uniforms. It all looked innocuous enough from afar: A few hundred people, banging drums, chanting, and holding aloft a lone red banner. But there’s no predicting how a protest will turn out. They are lightly flammable. The Brazilians’ rage slumbers just below the surface and rouses at unexpected times. In recent days, people have started taking to the streets again. Some protests have turned violent.

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