2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Bryan Clift

University of Bath
Lula’s Populist Wake: Sporting Mega-Events and Leftist Populism in Brazil

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were part and parcel of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s (popularly referred to as Lula) populist swell with the Partido dos Trabalhadores (the PT, or Worker’s Party) in Brazil. The Cup and the Games were integral elements of Lula’s political agenda and legacy (Gaffney, 2010; Canales, 2011; Clift & Andrews, 2012). To the internal Brazilian audience, the Cup and Games became expressions of Lula’s perceived character as a man of and from the people whose charisma stimulated and simulated his political leadership. Yet, his hand-chosen successor in 2011, Dilma Rousseff, did not experience the same levels of support or appeal despite maintaining many of Lula’s policies. Within a period of economic decline, Rousseff was unable to maintain political leadership. In the wake of Lula’s populism, Rousseff lacked the charisma of Lula to maintain continuity of the PT on the left, which contributed to her declining popularity and ultimately her impeachment just prior to the Olympic Games. Within this paper, I offer a selective contextualization of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and the leftist populism within which Lula and the PT ascended and declined.