Saturday, November 12, 2022

Uruguay was the Qatar of the 1920s

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David Goldblatt writes on Qatar and the imminent football World Cup In the new London Review of Books.

He includes a fascinating parallel with an earlier host of the tournament:

We have been here before. In 1930, Uruguay was a country of fewer than three million people that had undergone an explosive economic and social transformation. It had grown rapidly on the strength of beef and agricultural exports, attracting huge numbers of migrants from Italy and Spain. It was also building South America’s most robust liberal democracy and its first welfare state. 

Having charmed Europeans while winning the football gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics (in Paris and Amsterdam respectively), Uruguay celebrated the centenary of its constitution in 1930 by hosting Fifa’s first World Cup. The Estadio Centenario, built in Montevideo to stage the final, was one of South America’s first concrete arenas; its capacious stands were arranged like the overlapping petals of an Art Nouveau flower.

Uruguay, like its neighbour Argentina, seemed set for prosperity after the first world war, particularly because of its beef exports. The brand Fray Bentos took its name from a port city in Uruguay where the meat was processed and shipped abroad.

But economic depression and the collapse of democratic government saw Uruguay fade from European view. Perhaps these South American nations would have fared better if the airship industry had flourished here.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

Uruguay is however now a stable democracy, more liberal than most Latin American nations. Although budget deficits are common, she actually ran a current account surplus in the second quarter of 2022.