“We are definitely prepared for the World Cup,” said Merina Aragao, a tourism official in Salvador, the northeastern city with Brazil’s second-largest Carnival celebrations behind Rio de Janeiro. “After organizing this grandiose party which is the Carnival in Salvador, we will certainly be able to handle the challenges of the World Cup.”
That’s from an Associated Press story on Thursday. You have to ask whether officials might have got a bit carried away by the past week’s party mood.
Not that holding a carnival is any small achievement. The exuberant parades put on by samba schools that dominate carnival in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are immense feats of organisation. Scores of people from local communities work together for months to create fabulous floats and costumes. Drum sections are big, powerful and highly sychronised. Dancers learn intricate choreographies, and supporters and members of the public are corralled into what look like well-rehearsed presentations that come together often literally at the very last minute.
Those involved are deeply dedicated. As Lourival Almeida, carnival director of the Vai-Vai samba school in São Paulo, told the FT before the 2010 carnival: “The most important thing that every company wants of its customers and its workers, is loyalty, love for the brand,” he says. “Samba schools have this to spare. People dedicate themselves out of love.”
Carnival in Brazil’s north-east is no less exuberant, though here it is more a matter of following the trio elétrico, an amplified band on the back of a truck.
Whatever the style, though, carnival celebrations are street parties that generations of local people have been putting together since the late 19th century. That’s not quite the same as organising a world football tournament. The latter will involve a bit more than putting people up in hotels, caring for them when they get sick and cleaning up after them (though it will involve all that, too).
Officials from around Brazil have pointed to their success in providing health, security and cleaning services during the long carnival weekend. That’s not what this commentator had to say about the Rio carnival on a readers forum run by the Esatado de S. Paulo newspaper:
Patients complain about the lack of beds in public hospitals. A great exercise for the 2014 World Cup and other events. What we need, urgently, is to improve services at Rio de Janeiro’s hospitals, because the quality of service is very bad and the number of patients can only increase. Carnival is an excellent test of all the essential services in the city, which also needs to urgently review the supply of public toilets and avoid this scandal of people urinating everywhere without a minimum of respect. The time is now.
Brazil has all of two years to get ready for the World Cup, and another two years for Rio to be ready to host the 2016 Olympic Games. President Dilma Rousseff is well known for knocking heads together when public works get behind schedule. By now, heads should be aching up and down the country.