Will Brazil Be Ready for the Soccer World Cup?
Less than three months remain until the World Cup takes center stage in Brazil, a journey that has, at various points, been both celebrated and heavily criticized. Read on as we walk through some of the snags and setbacks that have plagued Brazil’s World Cup preparation — the country’s first since it hosted the fourth FIFA World Cup in 1950.
Stadiums and delayed construction
Arena da Amazonia, where England play their opening Group D match against Italy, is now officially open for business. The 42,000-seat venue is situated in the heart of the rainforest, in the city of Manaus, is the third World Cup stadium to open this year. The ribbons have also been cut at Estadio das Dunas in Natal, and the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. Still, three stadiums are not yet finished, and infrastructure work in many of the 12 host cities remains far from completed. Despite whispers of a lack of preparedness for a tournament that starts in less than three months, FIFA already knows that at least two stadiums won’t be ready until about a month before the tournament starts, including the one hosting the opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
Criticism from governing bodies
The current president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, recently accused the South American host country of starting its preparations “much too late.” In his conversation with a Swiss newspaper, when asked if he believed Brazil just hadn’t realized the scale of work involved, Blatter disagreed: “No,” he said. “Brazil has just found out what it means and has started work much too late. No country has been so far behind in preparations since I have been at FIFA, even though it is the only host nation which has had so much time — seven years — in which to prepare.”
Protests from citizens
Brazil has come under criticism from its own citizens, who have protested and denounced the corruption and perceived high cost of preparations for the upcoming World Cup. Shortly before the Confederations Cup in June 2013 — meant to act as a soft introduction and dry run for the World Cup — more than a million protestors claimed the streets of approximately 80 Brazilian cities, while attendees at the Cup’s opening match later booed Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Though soccer is one of Brazil’s most beloved sports, residents are protesting what they see as gross expenditures for a one-time event and pointing to the country’s lack of funding for public education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Aldo Rebelo, the country’s sports minister, said he anticipated that street protests at the World Cup would be “very small” compared to those that occurred around the Confederations Cup.
Preparations for the World Cup have not only been beset by cost and delays, but also by fatal accidents. Thus far, there have been six construction-related fatalities at tournament stadiums with the majority of the accidents occurring in World Cup-related construction in Manaus. After visiting the site, authorities said the conditions were “unacceptably dangerous,” but work eventually resumed once a safety report was presented. The death toll in Brazil is already three times that of 2010 host South Africa, where two construction workers died working at the site that hosted the Cup’s opening match.
Claims of corruption and poor planning
Brazil is spending approximately $3.5 billion on the 12 stadiums for the event — many of which, critics say, won’t be used efficiently after the Cup is over. The Cuiaba stadium, for example, currently has two teams that draw an average of 500 fans per game. Post-World Cup renovations, the stadium will be equipped to handle 45,000 fans.
After Brazil was awarded the cup in 2007, 72 percent of respondents to a survey favored holding the World Cup. Politicians promised $8 billion would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other projects nationwide, yet much of that financing hasn’t been seen — and many of those efforts have been scrapped. Though it was promised that no public money would be used to finance the revamping and construction of stadiums, more than 80 percent of the $3.5 billion is, in fact, from public money. Former FIFA leaders were found to have accepted millions of dollars in World Cup kickbacks, and today, only 52 percent of Brazilians favor hosting the Cup.