Much of the world's attention will soon be focused on South Africa, where 32 teams will carry the hopes of their countries into a very big contest for a very small (it's only 14 inches high) trophy: The World Cup. I'll watch the games in South Africa, of course, but I find myself thinking much more about the nation that is set to host the NEXT World Cup tournament, in 2014: Brazil.
No nation has had greater success in the World Cup...Brazil has won it a record five times. But come 2014, sixty-four years will have passed since the last - and only - time the tournament was held there. That's a very long time, and since 1950 Brazil has changed and developed in ways that are hard to imagine. All this week, we've been broadcasting our BBC World News America programs from Brazil, with our anchor Matt Frei and a crack team reporting a series we've called Brazil Rising. And rising it is, both as an economic power and a player on the world stage.
Brazil's economic potential has long been apparent; vast natural resources and an incredibly ambitious population. That promise has now exploded into a reality that has the rest of the world on notice. Take the aviation sector as just one of many representative examples: Brazil boasts the third-largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft, Embraer. And now, with more and more of its own people prosperous enough to board those planes as passengers, Brazil is drawing investment from airline entrepreneurs like David Neeleman. Born in Brazil, Neeleman founded discount U.S. airline JetBlue, and is now applying that model in his native land...and showing his confidence that it will work with an order for nearly 200 Embraer jets.
On the political front, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has long asserted a position for himself and his nation on the global stage. On issue after issue, he has made Brazil a player; his most recent foray was into the confrontation between Iran and the rest of the world over its nuclear ambitions. His attempt at compromise drew an immediate, sharp rebuke from the Obama administration, but Lula is unapologetic. And after he leaves office later this year (term-limited out of the presidency), Lula is reportedly interested in the job of U.N. General Secretary.
Short-term, Brazil's football team intends - perhaps 'expects' is a more accurate word - to win the 2010 World Cup. And judging from what our teams have seen and shown this week, that would be just the beginning.
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