Brazilian Soccer Convention Canceled Amid Funding Foibles

The major soccer convention that was to be staged in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the World Cup draw has been cancelled. Due to happen next week, organizers said it won't go ahead because of ongoing civil unrest. Brazil's government says it has to do with funding.

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Rarely does canceling a conference cause so much anger, but the nixing of a major soccer convention in Brazil has the government and organizers pointing fingers at one another. Known as Soccerex, the conference was intended to bring clubs, sponsors and business leaders together before next year's World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports the cancellation has pushed them farther apart.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome, 2014 to the country Brazil.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: The promotional video was out and the event was only a few weeks away but Soccerex Rio isn't going to happen now. The conference organizers say that Rio's government cancelled the event because of ongoing civil unrest in Rio. And they are threatening to sue Rio for damages.

Rio has been hit by a wave of violent protests and crime that it's struggling to deal with in recent months. This month alone there has been a grenade attack on a public bus line, and the beheading of a former footballer and the husband of a policewoman.

But Rio's government denies that security is the issue and says the conference lacks funding, and Rio doesn't want to use public money to pay for a private event. Since the massive demonstrations this summer, the use of taxpayer money to host sporting events has come under intense scrutiny. Eighty percent of the World Cup is being paid for by the Brazilian government and that's caused outrage here.

Whatever the truth, the cancellation is an embarrassment. And it's raised more questions about Brazil's ability to handle the upcoming sporting mega events, including the Olympics in 2016.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.

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