Amid coverage of the badly injured Neymar — floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee — a centerpiece of much of the World Cup coverage has been the viewpoints of foreign guests.
Today’s O Globo, for example, reports extensively on a Financial Times columnist who in the translated text writes as through he has never understood the mentality of pra inglês ver — the adjustment, often violent, of behavior to impress foreign visitors, something akin to the Potemkin Village. Globo (my translation):
More complimentary comments follow, this time praising the Brazilian people, calling them “an element that future Cups should not have to do without. It is a country where “nearly everyone is pleasant” and its people could teach a one-month course on how to control its rage.”
A third element that no World Cup should be without: Brazilians. If you live in Paris, it’s disorienting to come to a country where almost everybody is nice. I had a different kind of culture shock in Japan at the World Cup 2002: everybody was polite. In Brazil, even military policemen give you a friendly rub on the back as you pass (if you are a middle-class white foreigner, anyway).
O Globo omits the parenthetical caveat.
Another pleasure: this is a World Cup without fear. The first few tournaments I went to were overshadowed by obsessive fear of hooligans. (When two British friends and I arrived at a tiny Italian border post for the World Cup 1990, the customs officials didn’t want to let us into Italy on the grounds that we were probably English hooligans.) The World Cups after 9/11 were overshadowed by obsessive fear of terrorists. The World Cup of 2010 was overshadowed by obsessive fear of South African crime.
My wife’s final instruction before I flew to Brazil was: “Don’t get killed.” The Brazilian murder rate is high, though probably the riskiest thing you can do here is driving. But things feel safe in the tourist areas, which are currently flooded with police. At night Rio and São Paulo are humming with people, whereas Johannesburg pretty much closes down. I’m not sure if that’s because Rio and São Paulo are safer but it’s nice anyway.
The FT uses the modesty topos to proper effect: If all you do is walk up and down Copacabana Beach and shuttle between venues, you really are in no position to generalize, though it might be added that airlines and air traffic control are functioning smoothly.
The FT’s Gideon Rachman weighs in on his Cup experience as well in an entry in his The Diary column. I will try to respect the FT instruction to users and suggest that you read that one on the newspaper’s Web site.
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Rachman recounts with good humor and in detail his efforts to obtain tickets for matches in Brasília.
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