Call me a weirdo, but as I follow the games of the World Cup—like most of the rest of the world—my eye doesn’t just search for the final scores. I look to see where the game was played. The reason is because I’m not just fascinated with the games, but with the backdrop as well. Politics, riots, and social injustice aside, Brazil appears to be the consummate host and most appropriate setting for the games. Soccer may not have its origins there, but it can certainly be considered it’s home in spirit. And the already party-like atmosphere is enough to get even passive fans excited.
In 2013 my visit was limited to Rio de Janeiro and the Costa Verde, which more than filled the ten days I was in the country. Like other geographically large countries such as Australia, the US and China, it was immediately obvious that only a fraction could be seen in one practical visit. So as stadiums fill in Recife, Natal and Manaus, I intently observe whatever video snippets are shown of the cities and their surroundings. I also can’t help but think what early Amazonian explorers fighting native tribes, hordes of insects and malaria would think of an internationally televised soccer match being played in the lands they had to cut through with a machete (though I suppose the whole attempted cannibalism on the part of Suarez might seem uncomfortably familiar).
My favorite part of watching the games has been the reaction of the crowds massed together on Copacabana Beach. That place is already like a nonstop party, and when you throw in thousands of raucous supporters from around the globe cheering and dancing, it must be like Carnival every day of the week. The commentators and experts have the amazing backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain and it seems they can’t cut to commercial without a shot of the famous Cristo Redentor statue. Rio—which is scheduled to host the next Olympic Summer Games as well—is definitely getting a lot of oohs and aahs from the international audience. Even people I know who are stationary homebodies have expressed a desire to see it for themselves.
One would hope that this influx of visitors and revenue will go back to the people of Brazil, creating further stability and greater incentive for travelers to come and spend their money. Either way, the majestic backdrop and natural eye-candy have already boosted people’s image of Brazil, and filled me with a renewed desire to return and explore the regions I couldn’t get to before. In this case it is the stage, and not the actors, who have stolen the show. Extra time never sounded so good.