Big Events, Big Risks: Lessons From Brazil’s World Cup

October 2, 2014

Jacqueline Day – Forbes, 09/29/2014

For a month this past summer, billions of fans around the world stayed glued to televisions broadcasting the FIFA World Cup from Brazil. Millions more descended on Brazil to watch the games in person. They came despite the various warnings about Brazil’s readiness to host and fears of widespread, violent protests. Yet, as it should be, the tournament will mostly be remembered for the drama that played out on the pitch: from the Brazilian team’s epic collapse against Germany and the controversy that erupted when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez (some would say allegedly) bit an Italian opponent, to the emergence of Colombian star James Rodriguez.

That the tournament will be remembered first and foremost for the soccer was no small feat and, frankly, a massive surprise. Thousands of corporate VIPs, celebrities and world leaders descending upon a country known for its security, logistics and infrastructure challenges was worrisome enough. Such a backdrop, combined with the disruptive social unrest that flared unexpectedly in 2013, could have easily shifted the storyline away from the sporting competition itself. That it did not is a testament to the hard work and careful preparation of the legions of public and private sector workers, as well as to the Brazilian people’s devotion to “the beautiful game.”

The Brazilian security forces deserve plenty of credit. They took active measures to address lessons learned from the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, effectively managing and containing the smaller-scale protests that did occur, and critically, avoiding the heavy-handed tactics that only aggravated matters in 2013. They were helped by two additional factors. First, many Brazilians who had previously engaged in legitimate and peaceful protest activity during the Confederations Cup were alienated by the violent tactics of anarchist groups, the so-called Black Blocs, with whom they did not want to be associated.  Second, in keeping with custom, most Brazilians cared more about watching the matches than taking to the streets. Even Brazil’s crushing loss to Germany—an event that caused security directors to collectively hold their breath—failed to galvanize the masses to take back to the streets.

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Little done in Brazil to improve safety after fire

May 23, 2013

AP/ABC News, 05/23/2013

Little has been done to improve the safety of public gathering places since a nightclub fire killed 242 people earlier this year in southern Brazil, relatives of the victims said Wednesday.

The relatives met in Brasilia to discuss what safety measures have been adopted in Brazil since the Jan. 27 fire that destroyed the Kiss nightclub in the city of Santa Maria.

“Almost nothing has been done to improve the safety of nightclubs,” said Adherbal Alves Ferreira, whose 22-year-old daughter, Jennefer, perished in the fire. “We need more vigorous laws and demand they be followed and obeyed.”

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Brazil: Counterterror team at Confederations Cup

April 23, 2013

AP/ABC News, 04/22/2013

An officer in the Brazilian army’s counterterrorism division says about 600 soldiers will be taking part in security operations during the upcoming Confederations Cup.

The G1 news website quoted Col. Richard Fernandez Nunes on Monday as saying an additional 250 specialists in identifying threats from chemical, biological and nuclear threats will be also conducting sweeps during the June 15-30 football tournament.

The six Brazilian cities hosting Confederations Cup matches will each be assigned a counterterrorism team. Brazil is also hosting next year’s World Cup, and Nunes says all 12 of the tournament’s host cities will have such teams.

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More delays in Brazil air force upgrades

April 9, 2013

UPI, 04/09/2013

Piecemeal upgrades to Brazilian air force inventory are threatening to overshadow the Latin American country’s most important — and most delayed — plan to discard aging war jets and replace them with a brand-new inventory.

Brazilian military analysts say the defense establishment’s perceived priorities are not receiving the attention they deserve from President Dilma Rousseff’s administration.

Brazilian air force plans to upgrade its fighting capability have been stymied by delays over the acquisition of new fighter jets.

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Brazil safety concerns rise after arrest of police officers and gang rape on bus

April 4, 2013

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 04/02/2013

Brazil‘s efforts to improve public safety ahead of the football World Cup and the Olympics have taken two high-profile hits in recent days with the arrests of eight police officers in São Paulo and news of the rape and robbery of tourists in Rio de Janeiro.

The officers were arrested after a television broadcast showed two teenagers being shot dead on 16 March in the Bras neighbourhood of São Paulo, while the occupants of a nearby patrol car did nothing to help.

One of the victims – a 14 year old known as Piui who collected paper and cardboard from the streets – was shot six times. The other victim, whose name has not been disclosed, was shot 12 times.

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After Fire, Some Brazilians Fault a Nation’s Sense of Fatalism

January 31, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 01/29/2013

SANTA MARIA, Brazil — First there was the shock over the chaotic nightclub fire here that killed more than 230 people, many of them promising university students. Then there was the grief as families began burying their dead.

Now the soul-searching has begun, as Brazilians here and abroad ask how such a tragedy could have occurred in the first place.

“This is the most senseless thing I can imagine,” said José Joel Canto, 64, a retired railroad worker whose daughter, Natana, a 21-year-old law student, died in the blaze early Sunday morning. “One minute my daughter is dancing, having some fun with friends — the next minute they are dead. I simply cannot comprehend it.”

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A night of tragedy

January 30, 2013

The Economist, 01/27/2013

THE death toll from a fire that broke out in the early hours of January 27th in a Brazilian nightclub has already reached 232, with more than 100 injured, many severely. Almost all the victims were young; the nightclub, Kiss, in the university town of Santa Maria in the far southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, was popular with students. Most of the deaths were from smoke inhalation and asphyxiation.

Some survivors were flown to neighbouring cities, including the state capital, Porto Alegre, for treatment. A sports centre in Santa Maria was hastily turned into a makeshift morgue. It is customary in Brazil for burials to be held within 24 hours of death; the high death toll may mean mass funerals too.

Questions are being asked about the quality of the nightclub building and whether emergency procedures were followed. The blaze appears to have been started by a pyrotechnic flare lit on stage by a member of the band; sound-proofing material caught fire, producing toxic gases which quickly overpowered many in the crowd. Police said that at least one exit was blocked. Television stations broadcast images of firefighters, helped by bystanders, breaking through a wall to get in. Some of the victims were found in the bathrooms, possibly because they mistook them for emergency exits, and were then unable to come back out through the panicked crowds.

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