By JO-ANNE GARLAND
As I sat with eyes glued to the festivities of the World Cup opening ceremony, I struggled to remove the contrasting images of rioting crowds outside the stadium from my mind. The scene bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Suzanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games.
Collins spins an allegorical tale in a segmented world run by a Capitol that insists members of the community are “reaped” each year for its national Hunger Games. All of which is played out on live television for the entire world to see. Despite the nation’s poverty and resistance, the Capitol proceeds with the games, its contingent costumed in what can only be described as “gluttonous” attire.
The World Cup football tournament is steeped in tradition and is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. The gargantuan showcase is now a distant cousin and far removed from its humbler origins in Uruguay in 1930. Brazil’s estimated cost of $11.3 billion for the 2014 games make it by far the most expensive World Cup to date. In its current format, its value to the host country is questionable.
In Collins’ novel, the author cleverly weaves themes of inequality, oppression and omnipresent overseers into a story aimed at teens and young adults. The fiction she has created is not dissimilar to the present, where the “real” dominates our television channels with non-stop reality shows, consumed by aspirant viewers throughout the day and night. In The Hunger Games, televisions are everywhere and for some unknown, macabre reason the citizens of that world actually watch the games in which participants fight to the death. Granted, The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills or the Kardashians don’t actually kill, but those involved do everything within their power to publicly humiliate each other in front of millions of viewers. In a world rife with pressure, stress and competition, do we really need to observe narcissistic, duplicitous people in our spare time?
Back in 1950 when Brazil hosted the World Cup for the first time, Uruguay beat the hosts in the final, the score 2-1. Alcides Ghigga scored the winning goal with 11 minutes remaining. The defeat resulted in a fan committing suicide as well as three others dying of heart attacks shortly after the whistle was blown. Brazilian team players resigned, retired or vanished, pressurised by an unforgiving football public. An elderly Moacyr Barbosa, the goalkeeper who let in the winning goal, said in an interview, “In Brazil, the most you get for any crime is 30 years. For 50 years, I’ve been paying for a crime I did not commit. Even a criminal when he has paid his debt is forgiven. But I have never been forgiven.” Barbosa passed away in 2000. That final was a national tragedy for Brazil and dubbed a “Maracanazo” after the stadium in which it was held. Today, “Maracanazo” is a colloquial term used on the streets of Brazil when an opposing team wins against all odds. A question we probably need to ask ourselves is: how and where did we lose our way? Surely such grandiose, outlandish ideas have reached their sell-by dates? We need to groom and make way for a generation of people with their values and ideals in tact. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist and unlikely hero in The Hunger Games, inadvertently becomes a symbol of hope and rebellion in the world of Panem as she fights in the Hunger Games. Collins has intuitively developed characters in a land that is representative of many socio-economic climates in today’s world. Considering Brazil’s “Maracanazo” we could possibly empathise with the country’s need to host the biggest and best World Cup ever, but surely the public riots are an indication that the younger generation, and the real Katniss Everdeens out there, are simply not willing to pay the price?