Brazil’s Supreme Court clears way for Copa America hosting

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Brazil's Supreme Court
Brazil’s Supreme Court

Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday the country can host the Copa America despite the coronavirus pandemic, clearing the way for the troubled football tournament to go ahead in three days.

In an extraordinary virtual session, a majority of the high court’s 11 justices decided against plaintiffs who argued the South American championships posed an unacceptable health risk.

Various judges however ordered the government to take additional safety measures.

The three cases before the court were the latest — and perhaps the last — edge-of-the-seat moment for organizers, who appear determined to pull off this edition of the world’s oldest running international football tournament despite the obstacles.

Already delayed by 12 months because of the pandemic, the Copa America nearly unraveled when original co-hosts Colombia and Argentina fell through at the last minute — the former because of violent anti-government protests, the latter because of a surge of Covid-19 cases.

With the clock ticking down to this Sunday’s opening match, Brazil stepped in last week as emergency hosts for the 10-nation tournament.

But the decision is hugely controversial: Brazil is also reeling from Covid-19, which has claimed nearly 480,000 lives in the country, second only to the United States.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, gave his blessing to host the tournament.

He welcomed the court’s decision and predicted Brazil would “massacre” Venezuela in the opening match.

But epidemiologists warn Brazil currently faces a new surge of cases, and say hosting a major international sporting event could add fuel to the fire.

The Supreme Court petitions were filed by the national metalworkers’ union, the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and the Workers’ Party (PT) of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s likely opponent in presidential elections next year.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said it was too late to ensure immunity, and that post-vaccine side effects “could compromise players’ performance.”

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