LONDON: England fans should not be frightened off the World Cup by stories about mass cancellation of flights writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
That assurance has been delivered in London by Camillo Fraga who is City Secretary for the World Cup in Belo Horizonte where England wind up their group campaign against Costa Rica on June 24.
Fraga was responding to reports that the flights network in Brazil had been revised, with a swathe of cancellations, after factoring in matchday no-fly zones close to World Cup stadia.
Fraga said: “In Belo Horizonte the international airport also deals with flights from within Minas Gerais and it is these which have been cancelled on the days of the matches because they are easy to rearrange.
“In any case that’s not such a problem for local people because they can also arrange to make their journeys on those days by bus or by car.
“However flights from other states in Brazil we don’t change. In fact, we are increasing the number of flights including to and from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and Brasilia. Anyone staying in Belo can have a connection to six other World Cup citis in just one hour.”
When England played in Belo Horizonte during the 1950 World Cup the occasion was not a happy one, resulting in the infamous 1-0 defeat by the United States.
City authorities believe that today’s England fans will be curious about that game and have created a tourist circuit which will include the (now redeveloped Independencia stadium as well as the mining company HQ in nearby Novo Lima where Tom Finney, Billy Wright and Co prepared for the match in 1950.
Fraga said: “We have everything ready. We have tried to think of specific things for English fans so they get to know the Independencia stadium and Novo Lima. In fact, one of the ball boys from the 1950 match will be one of our volunteers. He still lives close to the stadium.”
Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium will play a crucial wider role in the finals, staging four group matches as well as a second round tie and a semi-final which – unlikely as it seems – might just be Brazil v England.
The city bus service has been improved and Fraga said local organisers had learned a great deal from last year’s staging of three matches in the Confederations Cup including Brazil’s semi-final defeat of Uruguay.
He said: “The Confed Cup made a lot of difference for us, especially the semi-final. We learned a lot about mobility and security. Then we had another important match later – the final of the Copa Libertadores when Atletico Mineiro finished as the champions of South America.
“After that our other club, Cruzeiro, won the Brazilian championship. So the city of Belo Horizonte really lives and breathes football.”
Argentina and Chile will be based in Belo Horizonte during the finals at the Atletico and Cruzeiro training centres respectively while Uruguay will be staying just out of town.
But the city is not only about football. It will also host Team GB in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics and an agreement is expected shortly with the British Paralympic Association.