Sports have been a neglected field for social investments and philanthropy in Latin America. Even though many non-profit organizations use sports as a tool for engaging youth in development processes, it may have been considered as a ‘soft’ or secondary approach when compared with health, education or economic development. But with the upcoming football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, both to take place in Brazil, the picture is starting to change.
Mega sporting events such as the ones mentioned above have huge impacts not only in the sports arena but also in tourism, infrastructure, national identity, international visibility and society at large. Depending on the approach, the legacy of the Games and the Cup could be positive or negative. The international experience shows that the ‘social legacy’ of sporting events does not happen spontaneously or end with the final whistle. It has to be built and sustained. As an example, we can look at the ‘20 Centres for 2010’ official campaign of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Its aim is to achieve positive social change through football by building 20 Football for Hope Centres for public health, education and football across Africa. The centres will address local social challenges in disadvantaged areas and help improve education and health services for young people. 20 Centres for 2010 will promote social development through football, leaving a tangible social legacy for Africa. So far, four centres have opened in South Africa, Mali, Kenya and Namibia, and six more are under development. All 20 Football for Hope Centres will be completed in 2012. This initiative involved the partnership between FIFA and the non-profit organization streetfootballworld and received the support from several private foundations.
Civil society organizations in Brazil are starting to pay attention to issues such as sexual tourism, child labour exploitation and environmental damage (to name a few), and to the negative impact they may have. But this is not enough. There is an urgent need for social investors and philanthropists to get involved too. Some of them have already started by joining the Social Legacy committees that are being formed and promoted by the government, at state and national level, as is the case of Rio de Janeiro. Others are joining a movement led by the Ethos Institute for Business Social Responsibility to oversight corruption procedures in contracting infrastructure works. These movements are as yet symbolic but moving in the right direction. Soon will come the moment for investing in more ambitious social legacy programmes. Will they carry this responsibility on their shoulders and show the world that sports can play a transformational role and that philanthropy should be a key player in this game?