International Business

Miguel Purgimon Colell ’16 uncovers the hidden costs of the World Cup

Aug 12, 2014

Every kick, header and “GOOOAAAALLLLLLLL” of soccer’s 2014 World Cup came with a hefty price tag—but was it worth it? That question prompted Miguel Purgimon Colell ’16 to fly to Brazil and speak with those footing the bill for the international event.

Born in El Salvador, Colell moved to the United States three years ago to study economics and finance at North Central College. After a crash course in Portuguese, he traveled south to Rio de Janeiro for a three-week summer expedition, studying the economic impact of the World Cup. Engulfed in the roaring crowd, he watched several key games; but his real mission was outside the stadium.

While the world saw newly built facilities and legions of happy fans, Colell uncovered the human impact of the Cup. He interviewed people living in Brazil’s favelas—sprawling urban slums—and found a growing outrage.

“Most of them weren’t too happy by the economic part, because their cost of living went up because of all the government’s event expenses,” he says.

He needed a broad perspective to tackle such a massive issue. Fortunately, Colell’s economics professor Natalia Bracarense connected him with key Brazilian contacts, including a government statistician, who gave him a rundown of the Cup’s finances. He also interviewed several economics professors in Rio, as well as members of the city’s middle and upper classes.

The results didn’t shock Colell: upper-class residents liked the event, while most middle- and lower-class residents did not. What did surprise Colell was how much work is still ahead for him.

“Putting it all together is going to be the tough part,” he said.

While his research is timely and fascinating, it needs to be transformed into a presentation. In the months ahead, he’ll be translating Portuguese survey responses and analyzing data trends, crafting his research into a presentation for North Central’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research in May 2015. His research and travel were funded by a Richter Independent Study Fellowship and will also be used as the basis for his College Scholar Honors Thesis. 

“I need to compare responses across economic levels. I have so much additional information—age, gender, education level—there are many ways to analyze the data and find trends in the responses. That’ll be the interesting part,” he said.

While he scored big with his research, the landscape and the people will stay in Colell’s mind.

“Nature’s done its job there,” he said. “The lagoon, the bays, the mountains—they’re all beautiful. And everyone was so friendly. I think that’s what I’ll miss most: the people.”

Written by Troy Kelleher ’16