RIO DE JANEIRO – Hundreds of football fans in Brazil for the World Cup are refusing to pay sky-high accommodation prices and instead are opting to sleep rough during the key sporting event.
In Rio de Janeiro, football fans from all over the world can be seen sleeping in the main bus station and on the city’s famous beaches, where temperatures have tumbled to 15°C at night and rain has been a regular feature.
Fans, including many from Argentina, Colombia and Chile, have come to Brazil for weeks in some cases without booking any accommodation and, for most, the risk is directly linked to hotels inflating prices during the World Cup.
“We are on the beach out of necessity. We cannot afford the hotels, not even the cheapest ones,” 20-year-old Chilean fan Christian Nie Paredes, who is setting up camp on Rio’s famous Copacabana beach for two weeks, told the Anadolu Agency (AA).
The beach is also home to the city’s Fan Fest – an area set aside for football fans to gather and watch the games on big screens together.
Nicolas Schwab, 24, from Argentina, said it was down to fans’ priorities: “If I had chosen to stay at a hotel, I would not have been able to afford food and drink. So I’ll keep on sleeping on the beach until Argentina has won the World Cup.”
Football fans can now be spotted propped up against fences and palm trees, wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags. Others sleep hunkered down directly in the sand, many after enjoying the city’s nightlife.
Fans have flocked from thousands of kilometres away, arriving by bus or car to get to the heart of the World Cup, and many simply cannot afford Rio hotel prices.
Part of the World Cup adventure
However, for others, sleeping on the beach is not just a financial consideration: it is a way to enjoy the city’s stunning surroundings and live something of a World Cup adventure.
“It might seem odd that we are sleeping on the beach. But for us it is an adventure to travel thousands of kilometres to come here and sleep on Copacabana,” said 25-year-old Argentina fan Pablo Mazzolini. “It’s a free way to enjoy the World Cup!”
Some 600,000 foreign tourists are expected to make their way to Brazil during the month-long football tournament, along with over 3 million Brazilian tourists travelling between the 12 host cities.
A survey of hotel prices carried out by Brazilian tourist board Embratur, ahead of the World Cup, said that daily prices in Rio hotels had gone up nearly 600%, with the average room in June at around US$461.
But fifty-year-old Argentinian chef Jorge Francisco said sleeping on Copacabana’s crisp white sands was very much a conscious choice, made months ahead of the World Cup:
“It’s Copacabana! Here you wake up on the world’s most famous beach with this perfect sea view. There are very few problems, except when the police wake you up in the mornings,” he told the AA.
“They told us we’re not allowed to sleep here. But unfortunately we won’t be able to afford hotel accommodation, so we’ll stay on the sand.”