Why Brazil will be the most delayed, costly, and - quite possibly - unwanted World Cup in history.

As you crawl across the long viaduct that links Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International airport with the city, the first thing that hits you is the stench. First it is exhaust fumes from the permajam of cars that nudges and jostles its way into the city, but then it becomes more sulphurous; the unmistakeable whiff of human excrement that is pumped into Guanbara Bay, the vast lagoon on which the city sits. The nausea that this induces soon subsides, however, for here it suddenly is rising up magnificently before you, the City of God: the multi-coloured favelas built into the sides of the dramatically inclining hills, Sugar Loaf mountain, mile upon mile of white, sandy beaches, with the vast statue of Christ the Redeemer looking down upon it all.

That short cab ride seems to encapsulate the very essence of Brazil. A spectacular country, blessed with infinite natural resources, beauty, character, and yet defiled by the hand of mankind. “God is Brazilian,” is a proverb engrained in the Brazilian psyche, for few countries are blessed with such an abundance. Yet simmering beneath this lies a confusion of ills: bad governance, corruption, vast social inequalities, huge poverty, lack of social mobility, environmental destruction, repression.

Some of these contradictions lie at the heart of Brazilian football too. The country has been for 60 years or more the spiritual home of world football, the birthplace of a staggering array of talent from Leônidas to Pelé to Sócrates to Neymar, the protagonists of a breathtaking brand of play, raucous, ebullient fans, the most successful football nation on the planet. Yet every bit as superlative as Brazil’s football and footballers have been, so have the game’s rulers — the administrative oligarchs that run the game — been rotten. Where there is beauty in Brazil, the whiff of sulphur is never far away.

This summer these two worlds will collide on the greatest stage of all when the country hosts the World Cup. The Brazil of samba football, passionate and colourful fans will be in the eyes of the world in a tournament that has been organised — and undermined — by those same self-serving rulers.

Not in the modern history of the competition has a World Cup been so scrutinised, over budget, prone to huge delays, open to questions of vested interest and divisive. Barely a week has passed since the end of the South Africa tournament without stories of construction hold-ups, overspends, tragedies. The organisers are accused of building a generation of stadium white elephants in footballing outposts such as Natal, Brasilia, Manaus and Cuiabá. The US$1.1 billion stadium budget listed in the bid book has been exceeded by at least 1000%, this without all the billions of ancillary spending on security, infrastructure upgrades and administration. Brazil’s football leadership has been completely discredited after confirmation of a massive bribery scandal that saw millions stolen from the game by the former head of the Brazilian Federation (CBF) and Local Organising Committee (LOC), Ricardo Teixeira, and his one-time father-in-law, the former Fifa president João Havelange.

In summer 2013, during the Confederations Cup, growing unease at the forthcoming World Cup boiled over into huge demonstrations that catapulted Brazil to the front of the global news agenda. What started as protests at increased bus fares quickly came to encompass an array of popular concerns, was exacerbated by police brutality and the arrogant response of the authorities, and exploded across more than 100 cities. In a nation where the tax burden is heavy on the ordinary citizen but the infrastructure those payments support is poor, football became a focal point for people’s anger. Fifa and its World Cup — with its seemingly endless demands on the host nation, while simultaneously demanding tax privileges — seemed to capture the essence of many Brazilians’ grievances. Memorably, protesters demanded “Fifa-quality schools, Fifa-quality hospitals, Fifa-quality transport.” More than 2 million took part in these manifestações, which claimed the lives of several people.

“This is a moment of unrest and uncertainty — both in terms of the cup and also society,” the 1970 World Cup winner and social commentator Tostão told the Observer in February this year. “The cup will happen. That’s certain. There is no way they will let it not happen. But what is success? For the Brazilian people, the cup meant lots of public spending, a lack of lasting infrastructure, a lack of social projects, but for the government a successful cup means something completely different. We’re all in doubt right now because we just don’t know what’s going to happen during the cup.”

Brazil loves football like few other nations on earth, but it has seemed at times as if the nation doesn’t really want the World Cup at all. On the eve of the 2014 tournament I travelled to Brazil to witness the mood of the nation, the sense of readiness for the greatest show on earth, to meet the protestors, as well as those charged with the task of making sure everything passes smoothly. I also wanted to uncover why everything was running so late and over budget. Was it symptom of what the New York Times correspondent Larry Rother describes as “a country where long-term planning has always been anathema, which loves to improvise and has traditionally expected eleventh-hour miracles to resolve its problems”, or was it some deeper failing? Moreover, I wanted to understand what the debate consuming Brazil about the World Cup holds for the future of the tournament. Has the World Cup become too big? Is it now a burden? Who will host future events? Is all the fuss really worth it?

Two months before the World Cup, Brazil was in a state of measured chaos. There was resignation among everybody — Fifa, the government, the people — that most infrastructure projects that were meant to be built to support the finals would not be complete. Rio’s international airport retained its charmless early-1990s spartan feel and even late at night it took an hour to navigate the undermanned passport and baggage halls. In Belo Horizonte diggers churned up the departures hall. Roads were dug up or just congested to the point of gridlock.

After months of stand-offs and veiled threats between Fifa and some of the host cities, the Local Organising Committee claimed that 11 of the 12 World Cup stadiums were finally complete and that the training camps were all ready. Yet the slow preparations seemed to be symbolised by a massive void at the end of one of the ends of the São Paulo Stadium, where a huge temporary stand was still under construction. Would this really be ready for the World Cup opening ceremony in just 60 days time?

Talking to people on the streets there were shrugs of ambivalence, empathy — and some irritation, too — with the protestors or disdain at the government and Fifa. Most people were more concerned with their daily lives — which can be very difficult, even for the middle classes — than the doom-laden headlines in the global media. When it came to football, most Brazilians at this stage, it seemed, were concerned primarily with their club’s progress in state championships and the Copa Libertadores rather than whether stadiums or airports would be ready.

To understand the chaos that threatens to undermine the World Cup one must understand the men who were directly — and indirectly — involved in bringing the tournament to Brazil in the first place: the former Fifa president, João Havelange, his son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira and Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Havelange, a former Olympic swimmer and water polo player, worked his way through a series of Brazilian and international sports administration roles in the 1950s and 1960s, to succeed Sir Stanley Rous as Fifa president in 1974. Rous had been Eurocentric, an old-fashioned administrator who saw Fifa’s role as being to oversee tournaments and monitor the laws of the game; Havelange, together with Sepp Blatter, who became Fifa General secretary in 1981, utilised the global explosion in TV access to assert football’s supremacy so that it became the indisputable world game. In this rapidly changing landscape, football’s huge marketing and commercial potential was swiftly realised and Fifa became rich and powerful.

But this is only part of the story and represents just the official narrative of his presidency. The Fifa that he created bore the imprint of Brazilian football and the nefarious way that it was — and continues to be — run. This is a culture of bloated committees, favours — both financial and footballing — handed out to well-fed allies in blazers, of chaotic and opaque governance. Allowing the sport to exist in a continual state of turmoil, of course, allows the strong man to survive.

Havelange was, writes Andrew Jennings in his scathing new book about Fifa, Omertà: Sepp Blatter’s Organised Crime Family, “elegant, charismatic and a thief to his bone marrow.” So vast are the crimes Jennings alleges that comprehending them is almost headache-inducing: ties to the military dictatorships of Brazil and Argentina; links to Brazilian crime families; using Fifa bank accounts as his own; adultery; bribes in cash; bribes in gold bullion; millions and millions of dollars stolen from football.

Jennings was making films for the Granada TV documentary series, World in Action, in the 1980s when a colleague suggested he look into sports politics. His assignments had included Scotland Yard corruption, the Sicilian mafia and Chechyna’s dirty war rather than the seemingly staid world of international sports administration, but what he found in the IOC and Fifa shocked him. “Soon I realised that I was back in the dark ethos of Sicily and the criminal culture of Omertà but transferred to another continent,” he writes. While his colleague Paul Greengrass left to make the Bourne conspiracy-thriller movies, Jennings entered a world that defied invention: that of Fifa, the IOC, Havelange, Blatter, Juan Antonio Samaranch and friends. Fifa, in particular, is a world that Jennings defines through the prism of a mafia family.

“The point about gangster families is that share what they steal,” he tells me via Skype from his home in Cumbria, days after completing his book. “And so it was with Havelange.”

The common refrain of those who have encountered Ricardo Teixeira is that his most remarkable talent is being Havelange’s son-in-law. The son of a local bank employee, Teixeira was born in June 1947 in Carlos Chagas in the state of Minas Gerais. He grew up in Belo Horizonte, but the family moved to Rio when he was still a child. As a teenager, he made it onto the Botafogo sporting club’s volleyball team but talent as a footballer eluded him. Under his father’s instructions he joined the army at a time when Brazil’s military dictatorship was intensifying its control over the country.

The seminal moment in Teixeira’s life came when he was 19: he met Havelange’s daughter, Lúcia, at a carnival dance. They began dating and, in 1973, married. The following year his father-in-law became Fifa president and everything changed forever. Teixeira had by then given up his studies at law school to work with a financial company in Belo Horizonte. Depending on which version of events you believe he either left behind a litany of failed enterprises or, according to his own summation, became hideously wealthy selling devalued shares and tripling his investments.

Without a son of his own, Havelange saw to it that Teixeira was nurtured as a successor and schooled in the ways of football administration. The cronyism, evasiveness and Machiavellianism that were hallmarks of his Fifa presidency would be mirrored in Ricardo’s style. According to a 2011 profile by the Brazilian journalist, Daniela Pinheiro, when talking about the CBF or the national team, he possessed the habit of employing a metonymic ‘I’: “I had to pay,” “I have $75 million in the bank,”, “I had to win that World Cup.” His critics say that Teixeira deemed football and its spoils his personal property.

In 1989 he was elected as president of the CBF, a similar position to that which Havelange held in the 1950s and 1960s, and even though his marriage to Lúcia failed, he joined his father-in-law on world football’s ruling council, the Fifa Executive Committee in 1994. The assumption was that Havelange was grooming him as a presidential successor, but his departure came too soon for Ricardo to take the Fifa presidency four years later.

By then Teixeira was engulfed in controversy for his running of the CBF, despite Brazil winning the World Cup for the first time in 24 years under his watch. A sponsorship deal with Nike, variously estimated to be worth anything from US$160million to US$400million over the course of 10 years, had prompted accusations that Brazil’s most potent symbol of nationhood had been sold to the swoosh.

When the team returned from the 1998 World Cup they were greeted by a Brazil flag modified so that in place of the slogan “Ordem e progresso” —Order and Progress” — was the word “Nike”. When Teixeira remarried following his divorce from Lúcia, a Nike executive, Sandro Rosell, was his best man. Rosell later became president of FC Barcelona.

Despite the Nike windfall, by the start of the 2000s, the CBF was deemed technically insolvent with debts of US$31million. The CBF had signed a huge sponsorship deal, appeared in successive World Cup Finals as well as scores of prestige international friendlies, so where had all the money gone? The government ordered an investigation into the CBF led by Senator Álvaro Dias and when it reported in May 2001 it had conducted fifty-nine separate hearings, totalling 237 hours. Its report ran to 951 pages and succeeded despite extraordinary attempts to obstruct justice.

The report uncovered an incredible culture of cronyism and kickbacks. It listed 33 people alleged to have committed crimes. Teixeira was accused of 13 offences, including making bad loans, tax evasion, lying about his tax affairs and using CBF money for his personal needs. It described the CBF as “a den of crime, revealing disorganisation, anarchy, incompetence and dishonesty” 

In the midst of the inquiries Teixeira had said that he would not be standing for re-election as CBF president in 2003. No matter, he stood again, and once more in 2007, when he was rewarded with a seven-year term to take Brazil through the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil’s own government had said that Teixeira “as president, is directly responsible for creating an environment which is ripe for an administrative disaster.” But how did Fifa respond to this as well as the numerous corruption allegations facing him? By putting him in charge of the 2014 World Cup, of course.

In an organisation as politicised and divided as Fifa, there was a surprising unanimity behind the decision in 2007 to award Brazil the 2014 World Cup. After Germany had controversially beaten South Africa to stage the 2006 tournament, the Fifa Executive Committee had decided in August 2000 to rotate the next two finals to Africa and South America. South Africa saw off Morocco in May 2004 to host the 2010 tournament and in October 2007 Brazil was elected unopposed by the Fifa Exco, Colombia having dropped out earlier that year.

“There was a feeling that the time was right, despite the concerns about Teixeira,” recalls one Fifa insider. “Remember that Brazil had not hosted since 1950 but had won it five times.” Jennings, however, scoffs at the suggestion: “Of all the people in the world you do not give it to, that person is Teixeira. I don’t think it was a mistake by Blatter to do so. When you are in the organised crime business you look out for your own.”

Fifa’s decision to award the finals to Brazil may have been less confusing were it not for the way that the World Cup was structured. Teixeira, as well as running the CBF, made himself head of the local organising committee; an unprecedented position of power. This was heightened by the lack of accountability he would have at the top of the LOC. In South Africa, its head, Danny Jordaan, was held accountable — and assisted — by no fewer than five of his country’s cabinet ministers. If something went wrong — as it often did in the build up to the World Cup there — he was able to tap into his colleagues’ powerbase to rectify matters. Fifa, likewise, had a direct line to the government. Yet there was none of that in Brazil.

Instead, Teixeira was left to his own devices, but to make up for his political isolation he needed to build up support in other ways. Typically a World Cup has nine or 10 host cities (Germany, which already possessed much of its infrastructure, had 12, Japan-South Korea had a logistically challenging 20), yet Brazil insisted on 12. The underlying motivation, it is alleged by Teixeira’s critics, was to build up a critical mass of support from federal political bosses — even if it meant taking the tournament to cities like Cuiabá, in the heart of the country, where there is no top level domestic team and no real notion about what will happen to the new stadium after the finals.

The challenge of building three extra stadiums was compounded by the decision to eschew a cluster system for the fixtures. No city wanted to risk building a new stadium if they were to merely going to host Honduras or Greece. Everyone wanted a chance of hosting a big gun, or even the home nation itself. The consequence is an exhausting and environmentally costly travel schedule, which will pose a huge strain on Brazil’s fragile internal transport system.

Nowhere provided a better example of this deal making to build political capital than São Paolo. The LOC knew they would need a modern stadium with more than 65,000 seats in the country’s biggest city, and São Paulo had just that: the home of São Paulo FC, Cícero Pompeu de Toledo Stadium, universally known as ‘Morumbi’. Built in the 1950s, the Morumbi was renovated in the 1990s and remains the city’s premier venue. Pledges were made to link up the stadium with the city’s Metro and to renovate it further.

These talks over renovations abruptly halted in June 2010, when Fifa declared that the Morumbi would be “excluded” as a World Cup venue. It was then decided that an entirely new stadium would be built on the east side of the city, which post-finals will be the new home of São Paulo FC’s rivals, Corinthians.

The official reason behind the dropping of the Morumbi was that São Paulo FC failed to present sufficient financial guarantees for the renovations, which the club dispute. The real reason, they complain, was testy relations with Teixeira, whom they accused of undermining them in talks with Fifa. Teixeira had been in dispute with the club after it came into opposition with him when he resisted its efforts to create a European-style autonomous league. This would have triggered a system of competitive TV rights tenders, jeopardising the sweet deals Teixeira was used to. As well as an alleged form of ‘punishment’, Teixeira stood accused of using the construction of the Corinthians Stadium in its place to gain new allies. Corinthians’ most famous fan is Lula, Brazil’s president until January 2011.

“The cup didn’t come to Morumbi because of politics,” Emerson Leão, then SPFC’s coach, said in a 2011 TV interview. “It was all a big lie that was silently accepted.”

Instead Corinthians got their new stadium, the US$500m budget up to 400% higher than the cost of redeveloping the Morumbi. After the finals the temporary 68,000 capacity will be reduced by 20,000.

Most baffling in this mess is the role of Jerôme Valcke. The Fifa general secretary is somehow supposed to stand above all these shenanigans, missed deadlines, internal political disputes and allegations, and deliver a World Cup. Infamously he said in March 2012 that Brazil needed “a kick up the arse”, which almost prompted a diplomatic incident. “We should have received these documents signed by 2007 and we are in 2012,” Valcke complained at the time.

Yet in 2007 Valcke was working for the Brazilians on a consultancy contract having recently been fired by Fifa as its marketing director. In a proposal that was leaked to the Brazilian newspaper, Folha, in 2013, Valcke said he could advise the Brazilians on “presentations of Brazilian bid documents and on the presentations to members of the Executive Committee in the intermediary stages or in the final presentation to Fifa.” He proposed creating the national committee and even taking care of the sponsorships and finances of the project. For this he was reputedly paid US$100,000.

On 27 June 2007, Valcke returned to Fifa as general secretary. Four months later, on October 30, Brazil were awarded hosting rights for the 2014 World Cup. Such are the strange ways of Planet Fifa.

An incongruous apartment in Hackney, east London, heaves with 60 or more journalists, TV crews, PR people and security staff. It is early spring, but the over-populated room swelters. Things are running late: 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour; but it doesn’t matter. The man we are waiting for has just days earlier been christened by Barack Obama “the most popular politician on the planet”. I step onto the balcony for a gasp of fresh air and only then does the significance of the venue become apparent. Before us stands the biggest construction site in Europe: the Olympic Park, a land of hope and dreams. Then he is finally here. Short, stocky, fuzzy faced, oozing charisma.

It is April 2009 and the 35th president of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva — or Lula as he is universally known, in the style of Brazil’s footballers — is riding the crest of a wave. Born in 1945 in poverty in Brazil’s economically underdeveloped north, Lula left school at the age of seven, taught himself to read at 10 and forged a reputation as a union activist at a time when the pall of dictatorship hung over the country. In 1980 he helped form the political party, the PT (Parotid dos Trabalhadores, or Workers’ Party), that would, following the fall of the dictatorship in 1985, become the most popular in Brazil and elevate him to the presidency in 2002.

Adored by the urban poor of his own country, his presidency has lifted millions out of abject poverty, while also seeing him hailed by the IMF, foreign direct investors and the international financial markets as a miracle worker. In taking advantage of a natural resources boom and stitching together left-wing and right-wing economic prescriptions in what the writer Dave Zirin describes as “true neoliberal social democracy” he has made Brazil an economic miracle. Now, having seemingly solved some of Brazil’s worst problems, he is asserting the country, which has overtaken the UK as the world’s fifth-largest economy, on the global stage. A century ago the French prime minister, George Clemenceau, said that Brazil “was a country of the future and always will be.” Lula seems hell-bent on disproving this maxim. Brazil has become involved in overseas military interventions, a creditor to the IMF, the World Cup is returning, and now it will host the 2016 Olympics. Brazil is becoming the country of today.

For an hour Lula charms and cajoles and argues Brazil’s case; at one stage even flirting with a female journalist. He is a compelling performer, one part Fidel Castro, one part Jed Bartlett, the fictional US president played by Martin Sheen in the West Wing. “It is time to make the Olympics democratic, developing countries have the right to host the Games,” he says. “We are competing for the Summer Olympics. South America has the right to hold the Games.” A world map is produced showing all the continents to host sporting mega-events of the last decade. There is one great gap: South America.

Six months later, at the IOC Session in Copenhagen, there is shock and some consternation as Rio de Janeiro is voted host of the 2016 Olympics, beating Chicago, the favourite and home city of Obama, who had also lobbied hard. More lustre is added to the legend of Lula.

Beneath the political fairy-tale, the charm, the charisma, there is, of course, a hard-nosed politician, a realist, a cynical streak. One couldn’t possibly marry neo-liberalism with social democracy if there wasn’t. The Corinthians supporter’s love of football has never been in question and he often inserted footballing allusions in his political spiel. He would also have known very well, even as a mere fan, the stench that emanated from Teixeira and the CBF. Yet Lula is nothing if not a pragmatist and is very aware of their huge pull in international sports politics. In Copenhagen, the 94-year-old Havelange made one of his last public appearances addressing the session, alongside Pelé, and the president himself.

In his polemical new book on Brazil and the World Cup, Brazil’s Dance With The Devil, Dave Zirin describes how the Olympic victory was seen as Lula’s swansong: “a signal that the world was finally granting Brazil the respect it felt it had deserved for almost a century.” Yet as Zirin argues these were not symbolic successes. “They walk hand in hand with graft, austerity, security crackdowns, and a set of spending priorities that would have made the young Lula blush.” It was Lula’s good fortune, he writes, “to win the bids for these mega-events just before the end of his term of office — meaning he avoided the much more difficult task of their implementation.”

What actually happened after Brazil’s award of the World Cup in 2007 were five largely wasted years. “Brazil has known for almost three years that it would host a World Cup and nothing has been done yet,” José Roberto Bernasconi, president of the National Association of Engineering and Architecture Companies told the BBC in July 2010. Such were the concerns about Brazil’s preparations that later that year, during England’s ill-fated bid for the 2018 World Cup, a Fifa insider told me, only half-jokingly, that there was more chance of the 2014 finals being taken from Brazil and England hosting then than in 2018. More bad headlines followed throughout 2011: Blatter and Valcke said no World Cup had been so far behind in in its preparations in the history of the competition and in November that year Valcke warned Brazil’s Congress there was “not a day to lose”.

A lot of the reasons Brazil was so far behind were political. When a country bids to host the World Cup it is required to produce a series of government guarantees to give it a legal, administrative, fiscal and organisational basis in accordance with Fifa’s requirements. In the event of a successful bid these are then brought into law. Without a so-called ‘World Cup Law’ the LOC has no real authority to get things done. It remains a largely toothless entity. South Africa signed its World Cup Law four years ahead of the start of its tournament, Russia five years, but in Brazil, less than 30 months out from the start of its tournament, there was still no World Cup bill.

Lula’s presidency had by then ended, and he was succeeded by his former chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, who in January 2011 became Brazil’s first female president. Rouseff, a former student Marxist activist and urban guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured during the dictatorship, was largely a political unknown when Lula christened her his successor. Not only did she win the election, but she made the Workers’ Party the largest in Brazil’s Congress.

More drawn to political dogma and principle than her chameleonic predecessor she owed nothing to Teixeira. Where Lula may have tolerated his excesses in order to bring Brazil the World Cup, there were no such compromises from his successor. Teixeira secured the tournament, but his corruption had brought Brazil disgrace. The World Cup Law remained unsigned. “Dilma won’t have anything to do with Teixeira,” sighed a source with knowledge of the deadlock in late 2011. “She’s completely right, but it’s a problem for the World Cup.”

Like a leech, Teixeira clung on and clung on. Already named as having taken bribes from ISL, the Swiss marketing company closely associated with Fifa and the IOC that went bankrupt in 2001, a hated figure in his own country, even marginalised at Fifa, he seemed like a dead man walking. What was he waiting for? A final deal? Or did he really think he could survive? 

In February 2012, Fifa renewed their World Cup TV contract in Brazil with Globo until 2022. Globo is a TV company with which Teixeira was intimately acquainted and that had broadcast the World Cup since 1970. The deal was concluded without any sort of tender. Their rivals, TV Record, having been promised “bidding would be public, open and transparent, similar to that in place in Fifa countries worldwide” were incandescent. In a furious leaked letter to Fifa’s head of TV, Niclas Ericsson, they said that it was “strange” that Fifa did not act in a “transparent manner”. TV Record, by contrast, believed in “defence of free trade” to “combat monopolistic practices, protectionism and corruption.”

Two weeks later Teixeira simultaneously quit as head of the CBF and LOC and resigned from the Fifa executive committee. “I leave the presidency of the CBF definitively with the feeling of having done my duty,” he said. Romário, the former Brazil striker turned member of congress, took a somewhat different view, tweeting, “Today we can celebrate. We exterminated a cancer from Brazilian football.” 

Ten weeks later and just two years before the start of the 2014 finals, on 6 June 2012, the World Cup Bill was finally signed.

In Vila Canoas, a knot of alleys that switchback and twist and turn up the side of a Rio hill, the images of the city — the Statue of Christ, the Cocapabana, the Maracanã — that will be beamed into homes across the world this summer seem far away despite their geographic proximity. At times the streets are only wide enough for one person to walk through as five or six storey buildings soar on each side, each built to their owner’s specifications and means, plunging the area into a permanent semi-darkness. A tangle of electricity, telephone and broadband cables dangle underneath drying laundry and satellite dishes. It is like a sixteenth-century city with some of the mod-cons of the twenty-first.

What is most extraordinary about this favela is how rich and poor live cheek by jowl — it literally touches the villas of some of Rio’s richest residents. On the terrace of a small school, the home of Fiat’s former South America director is pointed out. An agile child could almost leap across onto his terrace.

Defined by many as crime-ridden slums, the reality of favela life is surprisingly different to the usual stereotype. “We all think the favela is a miserable place,” says Axel Lahaye, a French-born tour guide who takes visitors around Rio’s favelas and himself lives in one near the Santa Teresa district. “It is a poor place, but people are living good lives. They have jobs, they have access to drinkable water, to electricity, a lot of them are well equipped, with washing machines, internet, TV. It is not what we think.”

22% of Rio’s residents live in favelas, although nationwide the figure is just 6%. Marginalised under the dictatorship, the objective since has been to try to reintegrate them by implementing public and social reform. Favelas were land grabs by the urban poor and although the homes are permanent — no one lives in shacks here — the owners have no land rights or legal title to their homes. (It is now the policy of many Brazilian cities to prevent — sometimes forcibly — further encroachment by favelas).

The National Coalition of Local Committees for a People’s World Cup and Olympics claim that 170,000 people will be displaced from their homes in the run up to the World Cup and Olympics. Because their homes are not protected by property law, favela dwellers are those most vulnerable to evictions. By law, those evicted from favelas are supposed to be rehoused within 4km of their old homes, but researchers from the University of Fluminense say that some have been rehoused 60km away.

The Rio Olympics, which is being built on an enormous site in the west, opening up that part of the city, will have a far bigger impact on the city than the World Cup. Development in this zone is huge, seemingly much greater than that undertaken ahead of the London Olympics. But even during preparations for the World Cup there has been a litany of ugly and clumsy evictions in Rio. In the Maracanã an acclaimed indigenous peoples’ museum was bulldozed to make way for a car park, as were other parts of the complex which is meant to form part of the Brazil Olympic team’s training bases ahead of a games they are hosting. At one corner of the Maracanã efforts to close down and bulldoze the Friedenreich School — one of the best state schools in the country — were resisted, but only after the authorities were shamed into abandoning plans. Even the decidedly unpolitical Ana Maria Braga, Brazil’s answer to Martha Stewart, took up the cause.

The Maracanã assumes a near mythical place in world football history. It was built for the 1950 World Cup, and although — in echoes of this Brazil World Cup — it was not finished on time, an official attendance of 199,854 was recorded for the final. On the other side of the world, generations of football fans grew up reading of extraordinary attendances and amazing football feats carried out under its roof. In the 1980s it fell into disrepair and in 1992 part of the upper stand collapsed during a match, killing three and injuring 50. After that parts of the stadium were shut off, it was made all-seater, but also declared a national monument meaning it couldn’t be demolished. It underwent further redevelopment and was reopened in January 2007 with a new capacity of 82,000.

A few months later Brazil was awarded the World Cup and, despite its national monument status and recent redevelopment, the Maracanã was effectively pulled down. The two-tier construction gave way to a single-tier bowl and after more, almost inevitable, delays reopened last June for a friendly between Brazil and England.

On a warm Rio Sunday afternoon two months out from the start of the World Cup, I attended the first leg of a State Championship final between Vasco and Flamengo. What I found was a rather soulless bowl, stripped of any of the architectural flourishes one would expect from a world-class arena. The sight-lines were mediocre, the acoustics good, but there was nothing to differentiate it from a series of other modern stadiums holding less auspicious titles that I’d visited all over the world. I could have been anywhere; here was a flat-pack McStadium if ever there was one.

When I talk to Christopher Gaffney, a geographer and journalist, who has lived in Rio for the past five years, his annoyance at what has happened to the Maracanã is palpable. “We’ve taken a public stadium that has served as the site of creation of Brazilian football culture for 60 years and it is as if the heart of where that culture happens has been ripped out,” he said. “They took these open stands that were affordable for everybody to go to, allowing for Brazilian creativity to express itself, and replaced them with this fragmented, isolated, territorialised shopping mall where the prices are completely out of the reach of normal people, even middle class people who go to football games.”

Gaffney argues that the new stadium has been completely sanitised. “They’ve gone from one stadium which reflected a different era of Brazilian history to a model that has really no connection with the majority of the Brazilian population,” he said. “It is an imposition; it’s an authoritarian imposition, an ideological project that reflects the values of market logic.”

At the University of Fluminense’s school of engineering and architecture, a short ferry ride across Rio’s bay, Professor Fernanda Sánchez tells me that the thoughtlessness that has gone into creating venues and infrastructure is reflected across both the World Cup and Olympic projects. There has been, she says, a failure of urban planning that has also had a severe impact on many lives. Huge promises were made during bidding that the tournaments would be agents for massive infrastructure improvements so desperately needed in Brazilian cities. What has for the most part emerged are stadiums which are not really needed — Brasilia’s new 70,000-capacity stadium could host the combined attendance for its entire state championship in one sitting — while roads, airports and public transport systems have been ignored or focussed on areas that don’t benefit the greater population.

“If we study the impacts of these games we are seeing some very bad situations like evictions and unequal conditions of life in the city that are being strongly accelerated by the projects,” she said.

She added that her recent research shows there is a no longer a belief in Brazil that sporting mega-events can act as a panacea for urban problems or as an agent for change. Instead there is growing disillusionment. When people were first shown these projects, she says, there was a wide belief “that it would be an excellent opportunity to have their lives improved by the mega-events experience.” This confidence, however, has been eroded during the years of preparation. “Nowadays people are very conscious that mega-events don’t fulfil promises to refurbish cities or even bring good public venues to practise sports.”

Professor Sánchez’s colleagues show me maps of the changing city of Rio, dotted with red marks indicating the affected favelas and circles showing the areas that stand to benefit from the investments to public transport. Depressingly these are in the wealthy south of Rio where the metro lines converge. A fellow professor shows me a Google map of the Maracanã, which is now surrounded by empty space where other buildings were hauled down. “Look at all the car parks,” he said. Remembering the World Cup in South Africa, you could see the Fifa template for a stadium — one that is surrounded in a void that will be controlled by the LOC and filled with approved vendors, corporate hospitality and media facilities.

Professor Sánchez and her colleagues are experts in their field, last year winning a major international award for their work, but they have been stonewalled by the Rio city authorities who have ploughed on with their developments. When Deutsche Bank, the award’s sponsors, wanted to hand over their prize at Rio’s City Hall, the mayor’s office blocked the ceremony, which had to be staged elsewhere. There is a sense of resignation at this act of pettiness, as if it typifies how the World Cup has been imposed upon Brazil.

The favelas have encountered a second, more sustained assault in the build up to the World Cup, from Brazil’s police and military. For years these areas have been blighted by internecine warfare between rival gangs and the lawlessness and violence had sometimes also spilled into other parts of the cities. One hotelier told me how he turned down the chance to buy a beautiful colonial property in Rio’s now fashionable Santa Teresa district in the 1990s after a machine gun battle took place between rival favela gangs nearby.

Such a scenario during the World Cup would be disastrous in Brazil’s quest to become a ‘country of today’. Crime stories already abound in the European media and not without justification. Every expat has an array of terrifying mugging anecdotes. In order to clean up the crime problem, for the past two years a programme of favela pacification has taken place. These are military interventions, with armed police taking control of entire districts, sweeping them clear of drug gangs and occupying the streets. In Rochina, with a population of 70,000 Rio’s largest favela, which was pacified in late 2011, on every corner of the district’s main drag stood a detachment of armed police surveying the scene. It wasn’t even 11am.

The results are overtly impressive. Official statistics show a sharp fall in murders, gun-related incidents and other crimes, although critics also point to police brutality, murders and corruption. “It is right to get rid of crime,” said Professor Sánchez. “But the methods of pacification are wrong.” She argues that the authorities need to complete the circle in order to integrate the favelas fully with the rest of Brazilian society. “There should be implementation of health and education projects to go with it,” she said.

“This concept of ‘security’ being implemented through the ‘pacification’ programme is seriously flawed,” wrote Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “The police ‘profile’ virtually all residents of the favelas as de facto criminals. If an individual challenges the police, that becomes evidence that they are criminals and typically results in a confrontation, which in too many cases leaves young men dead.”

With Brazil still haunted by memories of the dictatorship, civil liberties are a commodity its people value highly. Not since the fall of the dictatorship have they come under such sustained assault as over the past year.

With remarkable, almost frightening speed, protests that started on 6 June 2013 in Sao Paulo over a 20 centavo (5p) increase in bus fares morphed into the biggest street demonstrations Brazil had witnessed in 20 years. The first protests were dismissed as unrealistic — some of the São Paulo protestors, for example, had the aim of making public transport free — and there was irritation at the vandalism carried out by certain elements. However, the demonstrations suddenly exploded into a mass movement, encompassing a huge array of concerns, when — following a week of protests — ill-trained military police brutally suppressed the São Paulo demonstrations. Peaceful protestors, bystanders, the occasional anarchist, motorists trapped in the mayhem, were caught indiscriminately in a chaos of riot batons, rubber bullets and clouds of tear gas.

As well as traditional media, scores of videos capturing the violence spread swiftly on social media, gaining millions of hits. By the middle of June protests had spread to over 100 cities and both the participants — including women, families, middle-aged people; all spanning Brazil’s social divides — and causes had become diffuse: public services, economic inequality, high cost of living, corruption, even gay rights. With Fifa in town for the Confederations Cup, football became a focal point. And who could blame the protestors when faced with the contrast between Brazil’s gleaming new stadiums and the decrepit hospitals and roads? “The World Cup,” wrote The Blizzard contributor James Montague, who was reporting on the protests, “has sparked something that has lain dormant for a long time.”

The protests dominated the Confederations Cup but the response from Fifa only prompted more derision and demonstrated an out-of-touch organisation. “People are using the platform of football and the international media presence to make certain demonstrations,” whined Blatter.

More brutality followed as the protests became more violent. Metro stations, buses and buildings were burned. There was an attempt to storm the CBF’s headquarters. The use of plastic bullets and tear gas became daily reality for police. People caught carrying vinegar, which lessens the effect of tear gas, were summarily arrested. Most of the score of deaths were caused as people fled the protests and were knocked down by traffic in the confusion, but Cleonice Moraes, a 54-year-old cleaner, was killed after inhaling a deadly amount of tear gas as she tried to leave the site of a protest in Belem. As Brazil’s Confederations Cup semi-final against Uruguay kicked off, with 120,000 protesting outside the new Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, the whiff of the gas was clearly discernible.

And then, as quickly as they had started, the mass protests ended. But the lingering unhappiness at the inequalities in Brazilian society, Fifa and police persists. Smaller demonstrations have taken place on an almost daily basis in all of the host cities.

Professor Clarissa Moreira, who has studied and also took part in the 2013 protests, says that anger is the wrong word to define the manifestações. “Sometimes it was a little like carnival because people were wearing costumes and so on,” she said. “What was different was the police presence: they arrived in a much more aggressive way. We know now from people who lived through the dictatorship that the police have been more violent than at that time.”

“The impact on people’s liberties concerns me a lot,” she added. She also believes that official numbers of protestors have been significantly underestimated. “I think it’s because we have a generation that has not lived through the dictatorship or repression. But their fathers and parents were afraid because they know what the police can do. But they didn’t remember. So now we have another traumatised generation, but I think young people are more brave now.”

William Azalim, who is a member of the Belo Horizonte Popular Committee which helped organise the protests, agrees that the scale and complexion of the protests changed the view of political dissent in Brazil. “After the Confederations Cup, a lot more manifestações took place, because their image has changed. Before then they were not so well considered by the great part of the population, but now they see them differently,” he said when we met in the student union of Belo Horizonte’s law school.

When I asked protestors about why they are angry, there were a multitude of answers. “The list of things we wanted from the government became bigger, it became confusing at times,’” admitted Marcus, a 35-year-old architect in Rio. “[Saying] ‘We want the end of corruption’ is like saying ‘We are against cancer.’”

Most people I spoke to seemed to be simply unhappy with the government, a culture of cronyism and corruption, lack of social mobility and, above all, a the gap between what they are paying in taxes and what they are receiving in public services. Brazil does not have progressive taxation: if you live on less than twice the minimum wage, half of your income is taxed; but if you make thirty times the minimum wage, only a quarter is taxed. Throw in huge import duties, high sales tax, and there exists a country where people are effectively expected to pay Scandinavian prices for food and consumer goods, while earning Eastern European wages. This has created a palpable sense of disillusionment and alienation.

The most angry responses concerned the way the police had acted last summer — and continue to act — and forced evictions caused by the World Cup and 2016 Olympics. As well as baton charges, the use of plastic bullets and tear gas, which was also fired from helicopters, there are as yet unsubstantiated allegations that police used the cover of the manifestações to settle old scores in the favelas.

“When you see the middle classes at these demonstrations they are not so angry,” said William Azalim. “But we had a lot of poorer people on the last demonstration and these guys were so angry. So, so angry. The atmosphere was much different, more angry, violent in the last demonstrations. They have lost their homes or there is not so much public investment in health or education, but then they see a stadium that is worth half a billion dollars…”

There was a sense of disgust that the corporatisation of Brazilian football — which is enhanced by the new generation of stadiums — was pricing people out of the game. “I think poor people will never see a live football match again in Brazil,” said his colleague, Julio. “They can support, but the tickets are such a high price now that they will never go into a stadium again.” The insult of this corporatisation is, of course, heightened by the fact that it has mostly been funded by the public purse. “The legacy of the World Cup will mean that football in Brazil will be an empty sport.” 

I asked William if Fifa had offered to meet the Belo Horizonte Popular Committee as the demonstrators laid siege to their new stadium last year. He blinked with incomprehension, before answering “No.” “Did that surprise you?” His laugh answered my question.

In a country where casual disorder seems to pervade most aspects of daily life, it was only at the focal point of World Cup preparations that I found a real sense of calm. 6000 miles from Fifa House, its outpost in Rio de Janeiro transmitted the same shiny corporate image as its Swiss mothership. Situated in a bland modern conference centre, an hour’s drive from the beaches of South Rio, it is a huge bright temporary office, a nice place to work. It was also the only place I saw in Brazil, beyond an airport, with X-Ray scanners at the entrance.

Having been shaped by Havelange and after indulging Teixeira for so long, Fifa had long ceded any moral authority in Brazil. But beyond the stench emanating from some members of its executive committee, there are around 600 technocrats, administrators, security staff and PR people working hard to make a good fist of everything while also having to answer for some of the ills of the host country. It is true Fifa have made grave mistakes, botching preparations, letting Teixeira and the LOC create a bloated, inefficient template for their tournament, acting at times without transparency or humility. And yet they have also been let down: contracts have not been fulfilled, deadlines repeatedly missed, lies told to them.

The sense of calm in the LOC headquarters seemed in quiet defiance of the global maelstrom that has at times threatened to engulf World Cup 2014. Maybe it was damage limitation, clever PR. But then amid the obfuscation from up high, Fifa’s media operatives do have a way of being disarmingly helpful. Certainly, the LOC’s Communications Director, Saint-Clair Milesi, didn’t have to accept an interview request from a visiting journalist who was surely sniffing blood.

It was a strange interview in some respects. For so long the 2014 World Cup had been undermined by poor messaging from Fifa: Valcke’s “kick up the arse” comment, Blatter accusing protestors of hijacking the Confederations Cup, Valcke (again) saying “less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup.” It seemed as if in an attempt to iron out these PR disasters the LOC and Fifa had gone back to basics and formed a unitary line on all big issues. Before my recorder even went on, I was briefed about the organisational structure of the World Cup and what the LOC and Fifa’s duties were (stadiums, security, ticketing) and what city, federal and national governments were responsible for (nearly everything else). Perhaps unsurprisingly Fifa and the LOC had almost completed their work (“We just need to untie the last knot at São Paulo.”). And everything else, like roads and airports? Well, I’d have to go and ask the respective authority at city, federal or national government level, for that was their responsibility.

Despite my cynicism, there were some moments of candour amidst the PR speak. “I remember well at the beginning of our works our colleagues at Fifa with the experience from South Africa shared this barrel of knowledge with us that we’re going to be in for a hammering for quite some time. That’s common to every major sporting event,” admitted Milesi, who then reverted to his PR message. “Brazil is on the march to establish itself as a developed nation so that also adds on to the scrutiny of the world and questions and doubts about our capabilities of hosting the event. I think we’ve proven during the Confeds Cup the success of organising an event. We learned lessons from that and I think we’re on the right road to delivering a great event.” 

Reading between the lines, one can judge where the LOC deems many of the problems to have originated. It was, said Milesi, a “host country decision to showcase Brazil — for example, the Amazon, the Wetlands of Cuiabá, the north east of Brazil” — or Manaus, Cuiabá and Fortaleza, three of the more contentious host city choices where large questions remain over stadium legacy. “It is an economic as well as a touristic decision to showcase the 12 host cities,” he said, skilfully avoiding mention of football or legacy. Later he said: “You can question why city X or Y has not had a football tradition, but these stadiums were formed as multi-purpose arenas.” São Paulo, where building work remained incomplete, “was a host-city decision not an LOC or Fifa decision.” On airports: “Brazil needs airports and the government is investing in that.” On Teixeira’s fall: “You have to separate the World Cup and the LOC from political issues at Fifa… We have to leave the political situation to those who are occupied and working with it.”

He said, perhaps with some justification, that there were “misconceptions” about the causes of last year’s Confederations Cup protests: “The spark was a dissatisfaction with other issues and the spotlight of the competition helped bring up issues related to the competition as well. It wasn’t the World Cup or Fifa or the LOC per se bringing people to the streets.” He added that, two months out, public support in the World Cup, while declining, is still higher than in London at the same stage ahead of the 2012 Olympics. Brazil was merely following “the same trend for other major sporting events” with “a moment of euphoria” at the time of the award that declined in the build-up and which he was sure would reach a high level during the tournament. Popular support, he argued, was reflected in record ticket requests and 150,000 people applying for the volunteer programme.

“Looking back I think we made this mistake,” he concluded, moving his hands for emphasis. “We did not properly communicate ‘here is the effort you are putting in for the World Cup and here is what is coming back to you’. It is clear there are a lot of benefits coming, but they haven’t been properly communicated. Fifa is dragged into these local issues when there is a lot of emphasis put on it. But if you look at it, Fifa is asking for the stadium and the conditions for the fans to arrive and stay. That’s it.”

Despite the scrutiny, the discord, the protests, the huge cost, there is still a great appetite for the World Cup within the host cities upon which so much expectation has been placed.

In its City Hall, I met Camillo Fraga, municipal secretary for the World Cup of Belo Horizonte. A verdant garden city — which is home to both the current South American champions, Atletico Mineiro, and the Brazilian champions, Cruzeiro — it will host six World Cup games and has placed great emphasis on using the World Cup to promote itself as a tourist and business destination. It has even hired a leading British sports PR agency to help in its promotional work.

“The most important legacy will be the internationalisation of the city of Belo Horizonte,” says Camillo Frago. “Part of it is for tourists. We have a lot of things to show compared to Rio. We don’t have beaches but we have a very famous culture and food and big hospitality. It is important to show it can be a tourist destination. Another important part will come from services to companies. We have enough space and free land to start new things that you don’t have in São Paulo or Rio.” 

As it is almost equidistant from Rio, São Paulo and Brasilla, Belo Horizonte would geographically seem better availed to take advantage of any economic knock-on effect than some of the other host cities. It seemed more ready for the World Cup too: its venue, the Estádio Mineirão, was completed on time and on budget — funded by a Private Public Partnership — for the Confederations Cup and has undergone a more sympathetic reconstruction than the bland Maracanã, retaining its Niemeyer-inspired concrete ribs. Upgrades to the main arteries of the city’s Bus Rapid Transport system were also just about complete, although the airport remained a building site.

Despite its calm atmosphere — in contrast to the perpetual edginess of Rio — last summer Belo Horizonte was one of the epicentres of the protests. I asked Fraga about the sums spent on stadium construction and whether they could be better spent on schools or hospitals. He replied, “I always say this: the World Cup has not taken any money spent on schools or hospitals. It is important to say this.” The World Cup spend, he added, should not be taken in isolation. A large portion of the money went on paying workers, who in turn supported the local economy, paid tax revenues and so on. One suspected, however, that the biggest winners were Brazil’s building conglomerates, the largest of which date back to the dictatorship era.

The following day at the magnificent Niemeyer-designed offices of the Minas Gerais province, Fraga’s opposite number at state level, Tiago Lacerda, said that the protests were a reflection of the city’s importance. “The protests here were big because we are big,” said Lacerda, whose father, Marcio, also happens to be Belo Horizonte’s mayor. “We are important: in political contests, sporting contests and we had a big match, the semi-final match. That’s why we had so many people on the street. The World Cup here will be very different. The people here love the World Cup. They will watch the games. We are prepared to manage the situation. Now our security — our federal police — know them [the protestors] better. It will be more possible to react in case people set fires or vandalise. We are prepared to manage the situation.”

“What do you say to those who say the police reaction was totally disproportionate?” I asked. Lacerda shrugged his shoulders insouciantly: “That’s their perception… I think the Minas Gerais police dealt with it well.” “Do you think instead of firing tear gas the police response might be different this time?” Another shrug: “They have to use what they have. But it depends on the situation.” “Do you fear the protestors and what it could do to your reputation?” “The World Cup is a very big thing for this state. The protests in the Confederations Cup were very big, but our reputation afterwards was good. Let’s see after the World Cup.”

On my first day in Brazil, the words of a Rio cabbie to a friend working in the city highlighted the fracture between Brazil’s mercantile and political class and the rest of the public. “I’m Brazilian,” he said, “but I must speak truth. They are all thieves.”

As well as anger at the corruption and mismanagement, there was a fatigue too. It seemed too endemic, too entrenched, the inequalities in society too deep, for anyone to have a discernible idea about how anything could ever change. Certainly nobody I met on the street dared suggest football could change anything.

Football was a focal point for general discord about corruption and mismanagement, but really it encompassed every part of life. Petrobras, the country’s oil conglomerate, for example, was caught up in a $250million corruption probe. A former São Paulo mayor stood accused of taking $344million-worth of construction kickbacks. “The scandals are coming in the billions of dollars, something never seen before, people becoming billionaires through corruption,” was the view of one contributor to Transparency International’s website. “And I see no changes on the horizon. Corruption is something cultural here in Brazil, is part of everyday life. Politicians are just a reflection of our population.” Ricardo Teixeira and João Havelange and the World Cup the world they had created were just part of a national problem.

When the World Cup kicks off on June 12 in São Paulo, Teixeira is unlikely even to be in the country. After his fall in early 2012 he left Brazil to escape further investigatory pressure. Some reports say he lives in a $7 million home he owns on Sunset Island in Biscayne Bay, Miami, purchased from the Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova, but he may be looking over his shoulder there, as well. FBI investigators are currently investigating the affairs of his disgraced Fifa colleague Jack Warner. Will they be coming for Tricky Ricky too? Perhaps that has caused him concern. In February 2014 a report by Brazil’s leading sports investigative journalist Juca Kfouri said he had returned to his mansion in Rio’s Itanhangá district.

His estranged father-in-law, Havelange, who turned 98 in May, will almost certainly still be in Brazil, although it is not clear if he will show his face at the World Cup. The old man has had periods of ill health, but resurfaces from time to time to take swipes at rivals. One of the last journalists to interview him, Daniela Pinheiro, described him in 2011 as being largely unchanged from the man who dominated football for a quarter century: genteel, imposing, immaculate. Even in his mid-90s he still swam 1200 metres per day. He maintained, she wrote “a straight-backed, gentlemanly air. Perennially in a suit, he calls everyone over the age of 15 ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.” She added, “The corruption allegations don’t faze him. For Havelange, they’re just machinations, tricks to trip up the various candidates for an extraordinarily coveted post.” 

In April 2013 he resigned his honorary presidency of Fifa days before publication of a report into the collapsed marketing firm ISL which confirmed he took millions worth of bribes. There has been no repentance or public expression of regret from Havelange, merely the occasional swipe at his nemesis Jennings, who did so much to bring the ISL case to the public notice. “Until the end of my life,” he said in January 2012, “I will never forget what that British journalist did to me.”

I asked Jennings what he would be doing during the World Cup, and he replied, “On June 10th I’m hoping to be high on a tall building on the south side of São Paulo, above the teargas clouds, looking down on the Transamerica Expo Center, watching the freeloading Fifa delegates explaining to angry Brazilians picketing the Fifa Congress that stadiums only to be used a few times are more important than hospitals.”

Whether he is in Brazil or not, the protestors will more than likely be there in force in the summer. “It is difficult to predict,” William Azalim told me in Belo Horizonte. “Brazilians love football. We don’t know if the guy who likes to go to the manifestante will not see the Brazil match. Also, the repression goes on and on and people are afraid. What I think this year is that they will be more organised, but there will be fewer people.” 

Fear seemed to be a factor playing on many people’s minds, and nothing that I’d heard from the authorities suggested Brazil’s brutal police would ease their tactics. “We now have a federal government law that can say these public events are an act of terrorism,” Marcus, the Rio architect, said.<