As kids we envision it over and over: we score the goal, the crowd roars, our teammates carry us off the field. In Chicago or Pittsburgh or Dallas, the ball is thrown and caught; in Mexico City and Nairobi and São Paulo, it’s kicked. Football or futbol, it makes no difference; the dream remains the same.
A few years pass, and our dreams change: building great things, obtaining positions of influence, achieving economic security. Our hopes shift from sport to business, but still they remain the same.
And throughout, we never ask ourselves what we had to do to get there: whether we cut corners, stabbed backs, bent the rules. It’s not part of the dream. We take it for granted: we achieved our goals on the merits. We won, straight up, through ability and effort.
And then a few more years pass, and the world seems not as simple. We learn that our sports heroes take performance-enhancing drugs, or abuse their spouses, or deliberately injure opposing players. And our business heroes steal intellectual property, or engage in predatory pricing, or trade on material nonpublic information.
Or pay bribes.
But the better part of us holds fast to the dreams; we press on, seeking to build a world in which our children don’t grow quite so disillusioned, so quickly.
And so it is that business and sport converge, in our dreams and in our lives, around the world. And so they will soon in Brazil, with its uncommon fortune of hosting, back to back, the world’s two greatest sporting events: in 2014, the FIFA World Cup; in 2016, the Summer Olympics.
The events will shine a piercing light on the country for all to see. What will it reveal? China’s 2008 Olympics exposed corruption and fomented public discontent. India’s 2010 Commonwealth Games were a spectacular, embarrassing, corruption-soaked debacle. China’s revelations precipitated so many anti-corruption reforms; if only they had come earlier. India’s humiliation accomplished even less; in optics and substance alike, a country’s net loss.
Whither Brazil? The country mesmerizes; will it now disappoint? On May 23rd, its legislature decides.
Andy Spalding is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. He teaches international business law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Effective June 1, he’ll be an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.