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Brazil’s Copa América survives Supreme Court probe

The postponed 2021 Copa América is seemingly clear to continue in its new host nation of Brazil this weekend after the country’s Supreme Court rejected complaints over the national team football tournament being held in one of the nations most affected by COVID-19.

Brazil’s controversial decision to take on hosting rights to the Copa América came under further scrutiny yesterday (Thursday) after the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would hold hearings on requests to block the staging of the tournament.

An extraordinary virtual session of the full court heard three separate complaints lodged by the National Confederation of Metalworkers (CNTM); the Workers’ Party (PT) of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President Jair Bolsonaro’s likely opponent in elections next year; and the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB).

The majority of the Supreme Court’s 11 justices decided against the plaintiffs, who had argued that the Copa América represents an unacceptable health risk in a country that with nearly 480,000 deaths from COVID-19 is the worst affected by the global pandemic, barring only the United States.

However, a number of judges ordered the government to put in place additional safety measures for the tournament, which kicks off on Sunday and is due to run through to July 10. “It falls to (state governors and mayors) to set the appropriate health protocols and ensure they are respected in order to avoid a ‘Copavirus,’ with new infections and the emergence of new variants,” Justice Carmen Lucia wrote in her ruling.

Bolsonaro has been criticised for his approach to tackling the global pandemic, and backed the request from the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) for Brazil to step in and take the hosting rights.

The postponed Copa América was initially thrown into uncertainty less than a month before it is due to begin after CONMEBOL stripped co-hosting rights from Colombia on May 20. CONMEBOL announced the news just hours after the Colombian government requested that the tournament be granted a second postponement due to COVID-19 and civil unrest in the country.

CONMEBOL then announced last week that the tournament would be moved to Brazil after stripping Argentina of its co-hosting rights for the tournament. CONMEBOL said that decision had been taken due to a surge of COVID-19 cases in Argentina.

Stadia in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Cuiabá and Goiânia were then chosen to host matches. Alejandro Dominguez, president of CONMEBOL, announced that the Maracanã in Rio, Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília, Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá and Estádio Olímpico in Goiânia will stage the games.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Bolsonaro welcomed the ruling stating Brazil would “massacre” Venezuela in the opening match. However, epidemiologists warn Brazil currently faces a new surge of cases, and believe hosting a major international sporting event could exacerbate this. “It’s impossible to describe the insanity of trying to hold an event of this magnitude here now,” infectious disease specialist Jose David Urbaez told the AFP news agency.

The tournament will be held behind closed doors and has also drawn criticism from its sponsors. Mastercard, Ambev and Diageo have all stated that they will pull their branding from the event.

Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha (pictured) is hosting the opening game on Sunday.

Image: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa/CC BY 3.0 BR/Edited for size