RIO DE JANEIRO: Suddenly Brazil’s World Cup organisers and FIFA are waking up to the urgent need to avoid a public relations disaster among the fans expected to attend the 2014 finals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

A warning that organisers should not take fans for granted emerged this past week with an official South African government report on the 2010 finals. Tourism experts had talked of 500,000 foreign fans flying in but the report stated that little more 300,000 made the effort.

Brazilian officials have also talked glibly of expecting 500,000 visiting supporters.

However Brazil, as FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke has always cautioned, is a continent as much as a country with some of greatest intra-venue distances in the history of the World Cup with air travel between largely inadequate airports providing the travel foundation.

Originally FIFA wanted Brazil to organise the venues in regional clusters to make life easier for fans, teams, officials and media. However this was rejected wholesale by city officials who demanded a rotating presence of all the main teams in return for their unspecified infrastructure investment.

Valcke, back in Brazil ahead of the 2013 Confederations Cup draw on Saturday, said he thought everything would be in order for the teams but added, significantly, that  supporters should not be overlooked, especially when it came to getting around the vast country.

He added: “It’s not about the officials, the teams or FIFA itself. We have charter flights and accommodation for them, we have to think about the fans, we need these fans supporting their teams.”

Some would have to be flown in and out of venues on the same day because of a lack of hotel rooms.

Valcke said: “We have one city where there are 17,000 rooms and 45,000 seats in the stadium, so the only other solution would be to have three people in one bed. But we have now moved from talking about the problems to talking about the solutions. We are able to find and answer the problems.”

Brazilian organisers were galvanised into action earlier this year after Valcke said the country needed “a kick up the backside.”

That row has now been relegated to history.

Valcke said: “We found a way to work together and that is the most important thing. We are not trying any more to fight, it is pointless A couple can get a divorce but in a World Cup partnership, you cannot divorce.

“Some times you lose control, and you say things and get nervous, and then you learn that patience is a good thing to have. At the moment, we are working well.”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter hopes to maintain pressure on Brazil to speed up preparations when he meets state President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia later this week.

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