Before I left Brazil I asked people what to expect in Venezuela. The response was frightening. Compared to Venezuela, everyone told me, Brazil is like Switzerland.
That judgment has turned out to be more than a little harsh. With the first round now over, Venezuelans have proven fine hosts. The fans have come out to the games and been eager participants, even though baseball is the national passion. Their team has played well, winning their first game in the competition for 40 years and reaching the knock out stage for the first time ever. And the football has often been thrilling, with the goals per game average higher than at any World Cup since Mexico in 1970.
The only problem has been the surrounding infrastructure. Venezuela does not have the hotels, the airlines, the roads or the buses to handle the influx of visitors for a major international tournament.
Which makes Conmebol’s assertion that this is the best Copa America of all time a bit ridiculous. It’s better than most people imagined, especially given the fears that many of the grounds might not be ready. Some clearly aren’t but most are, at least inside.
But in stating it is the best, Conmebol President Nicolas Leoz is adopting the same criteria that IOC presidents use when rating the Olympic Games. IOC presidents pat their hosts on the back and tell them they are the greatest because they can’t have them losing face. Telling it like it is is unthinkable.
Venezuela deserves a huge thank you for its efforts so far. But calling its Copa America the best of all time is a little too much.