ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Same old story. For many World Cups – perhaps not Germany 2006 or in the old days when there were fewer teams and FIFA requirements – the host country has struggled to prepare in time.
Venues have been chosen up to five or six years in advance which should be ample time but perhaps too long. It leads the organisers to dawdle and feel there is no hurry; on the other hand, if given less time, they might complain it is insufficient.
Brazil’s preparations for this year’s World Cup have been slower than even for the last one in South Africa. This has caused a lot of exasperation at world federation FIFA.
Of course, when a the host country is chosen it is impossible to predict the state of the nation six years’ further on. Howeverbut FIFA should have realised a warning back in 2007 when Brazil struggled to host the Pan American Games, which are hardly an event of comparative size.
FIFA did not take notice of Brazil’s increasing budget (partly caused by corruption), delays in building installations which were barely finished at the last moment, promised transport improvements which did not materialise, protests by a poor population, high crime rate, etc.
While Brazil’s economy has deteriorated since it was chosen to host the World Cup, the tournament’s budget has increased by leaps and bounds.
This provoked street riots of complaint about comparative costs during last year’s Confederations Cup.
The government assured FIFA these would not be repeated during the World Cup but everyone appears to accept that they will … even if Brazil’s budget for security is now $640m, four times as much as originally reckoned.
Of course, it was originally said that all funds would come from private enterprise and not the government, but this was not true. The government was been reported since to be spending $3.5bn alone on building and refurbishing the 12 stadia.
One example of poor planning is that FIFA asked for 10 stadiums of World Cup standard but Brazil insisted on having 12 – one in every big city.
Yet they could not even finish building or refurbishing 10 on time. FIFA even threatened to drop Curitiba after building delays but finally gave the OK this week, although the stadium, which should have been completed at the end of last year, will still not be ready for another month or so.
Elsewhere, the stadium in Porto Alegre has an owner which has refused to pay for work around the stadium and work again stopped. Who pays for what should have all been arranged long ago. There were also delays after the deaths of workmen.
Further, Brazil insisted that each of the 32 teams travel all over this vast country, playing only one game at a venue. This might not have been so bad but in this vast country travel is done mostly by air which will cause problems, because airports, with too few and short runways are in no condition to handle so much extra traffic for teams and fans.
Brazilian aviation authorities meanwhile have sanctioned 1,973 new flights which should match World Cup requirements bnut might exacerbate the airport situation.
Meanwhile the Brazilian players union (FENAPAF) has protested that several matches are scheduled in the mid-day heat in northern hot locations. Its president, Rinaldo Martorelli, said the union could create havoc in the World Cup by stopping some of the matches.
Although the tournament is being played in winter, tropical conditions will prevail in Natal, Salvador, Reife, Fortaleza and Manaus which will stage matches.
FIFA has said its medical commission will look into the matter, but decided there was no problem – obviously because its members never played there. There is a problem, but FIFA prefers to prioritise television – which foots the bill – over the health of players.
Although FENAPAF had threatened legal action to halt matches – and would most likely win the case as legislation to protect workers health is strong in Brazil – nothing further has been heard.
To this extent FIFA ‘owns’ as much blame as Brazil in the World Cup mess.
FIFA has always said that staging the World Cup brings happiness to the host country’s people. That may have been true in some cases but not in Brazil this time.
Apart from protests by a large part of the population about costs, many poor people in shanty towns have been or are facing eviction as these areas are being cleared to build installations. Officials say this has nothing to do with the World Cup but that is clearly not true.
Activists say that some 250,000 people from a favela population of 11m face eviction. The government’s compensation rarely helps them to find somewhere else to live and not be too far away from their job . . . if they are lucky enough to have one.
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