Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brazil president warns of potential problems ahead of 2014 World Cup

SAO PAULO — Brazil's president says preparations for the 2014 World Cup could be jeopardized if government officials and businessmen fail to work together in the coming years.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said businessmen and those responsible for monitoring and executing the necessary infrastructure and stadium improvements must co-operate with each other to guarantee the country will be ready to host the tournament four years from now.
"We are going to have problems if we are not in agreement," Silva warned late Monday while meeting with members of the infrastructure sector in Sao Paulo.
Brazil needs significant upgrades to successfully host soccer's biggest showcase and many critics and even some government officials say the country needs to pick up the pace to get ready on time.
Brazil is expected to invest nearly US$20 billion in infrastructure to prepare for the World Cup, but bureaucracy — especially in bidding process and environmental licensing — may create obstacles and delay some of the necessary construction work.
Brazil has already missed a deadline to start renovating most of the 12 stadiums that will be used in the tournament. Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, is yet to present a project to replace Morumbi stadium after it was dropped because of a lack of financial guarantees.
Silva said "it would be irrational" not to have the tournament's opening match in Sao Paulo, but acknowledged that a decision on which venue would be presented to FIFA will not likely be made before Brazil's elections in October.
"Some of the (FIFA) demands are correct but some are exaggerated," said Silva, who will leave office at the end of the year. "But I think we will reach an agreement."
Brazil's Sports Minister, Orlando Silva, said FIFA officials will be in Brazil in September to inspect all venues and said it would be important for Sao Paulo to have a project in place by then.
"I hope Sao Paulo comes up with something, but I've virtually thrown (in) the towel," the minister said.
In addition to extensive improvements in infrastructure, Brazil will also have to overcome other challenges similar to the ones faced by South Africa — high crime rates, a huge disparity between rich and poor, and long distances between host cities.
On Tuesday, police underwent a series of practice drills — including anti-bomb actions — aimed at maintaining public safety inside stadiums.
Brazil will also host the Confederations Cup in 2013 and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
The Brazilian soccer federation on Monday sought to offer reassurances the 2014 tournament will be unaffected by urban violence after 30 people were held hostage at a luxury tourist hotel following an intense gunfight in Rio.
The gunfight made headlines across the world, but the federation said it was "confident" that local authorities will be able to quell the violence during the month-long event in 2014.

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