The Sad Fun of the FIFA Fan Fest

ASSOCIATED PRESS

After the extremely tight game last Saturday in which Brazil beat Chile in the last penalty, the atmosphere everywhere in Brazil was one of relief and celebration. Street parties went on until the evening, people flooded to the beach in Rio, to the bohemian neighborhood of Savassi in Belo Horizonte, or to the super crowded streets of Vila Madalena in São Paulo. Though the many football matches have indeed been breathtaking -- and the atmosphere in the streets is mainly of celebration, with only a few protests still happening in host cities -- some aspects of the FIFA World Cup Brazil just won't let one be truly satisfied with the event.

Take the Fan Fest in São Paulo, an area that promises to be the big alternative to those who did not have money to buy the expensive tickets for the games in the Itaquerão stadium. Set along the Vale do Anhangabaú, right in the heart of the city, the Fan Fest has a giant screen, a family area and a small cultural center with handcrafts from all regions of Brazil. Entrance is free, but take a closer look -- entrance is the only thing that is free. After queuing up in one of the two tightly guarded entrances, where one has to discard all food and beverages, there is no option but to eat and drink in one of the dozens of tents set up by sponsors inside. Children carry balloons and toys that bear the name of the friendly sponsors all over, so as to not let anyone forget who should profit from the party. All screens and lamp posts shine with the logos of the sponsors, and the huge screen boasts the voice of the presenter from Globo, the Brazilian TV station that owns the transmission rights - and, of course, the voices of Globo's own sponsors.

Massive public events are nothing new in the Vale do Anhangabau. Every year at least a handful of concerts happen in that very same valley, with the stage showcasing some of Brazil's best artists. It is a perfect place for that: The valley has many exits on both sides, and the Viaduto do Cha, a bridge that crosses the valley, usually allows people to easily see the show dozens of meters down. Therefore, thousands of people can gather around. What strikes anyone who is used to coming to events in the Anhangabaú valley, however, is how FIFA and the proud World Cup sponsors managed to surround the show area with metal walls three meters high so as not to allow anyone who is outside to peek inside. The organization has closed all exits and, worse than that, put up walls in the bridge, too, so no one can watch the screen unless they are in the Fan Fest.

It is a sad sight for those who have seen the Anhangabau filled with hundreds of thousands of people in support of the re-democratization of our country and of direct elections for the president in 1984, a historic event.

Forty years on, the valley is not for everyone anymore. As with everything else in the mega event, the FIFA Fan Fest thrives in the concept of a VIP space, where people are left out if they're not inside avidly consuming. That's the concept of a city that FIFA is promoting. It's like it's crying out loudly over and over again: "No, this is not a public space -- and the World Cup is definitely not a public event."

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