Saturday, March 10, 2012

Experts Concerned About Brazil's Readiness

Venues in Brazil will be ready for the World Cup in 2014 but airports and public transport improvements may struggle to meet the deadline, experts said, as a Fifa team inspected progress.
"Brazil is now starting to prepare its airports but you need at least 10 years to have an airport network in the right condition," said Jose Roberto Bernasconi, president of the Sinaenco architecture and engineering union in Sao Paulo.
Brazil was awarded the World Cup in October 2007 but Bernasconi told AFP that "it was only in 2011 that we started to take things seriously".
Four million tourists are expected to come to Brazil in two years' time, as the South American giant hosts the tournament for the first time since 1950.
But concerns have been expressed about the country's ability to cope with a massive influx of visitors.
Airports are often dilapidated and overcrowded yet the government only awarded contracts to three private consortia in February to redevelop three airports: Guarulhos in Sao Paulo, Viracopos in Campinas and in the capital Brasilia.
In Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, renovation work should be finished at the end of 2013.
Last Friday, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said Brazil needed to give itself "a kick up the backside" to make up for lost time in infrastructure work, sparking a blazing row with the government in Brasilia.
Since then, he and Fifa president Sepp Blatter have written to the Brazilian government to apologise. Valcke claimed that his remarks were given a much stronger meaning in Portuguese.
Some 40 experts from Fifa and the local organising committee on Tuesday began a six-day tour of six of the 12 cities that will host World Cup games in 2014.
Bernasconi, whose union is independently monitoring World Cup projects, said they were confident about the country's ability to host games.
"Certainly, the 12 stadia in Brazil will be ready for the World Cup, some of them just before the competition," he said.
"But other infrastructure work is slipping for the most part."
In particular, the union said that "few cities are actually doing work" to improve their urban transport systems.
The metro project in Salvador de Bahia in northeast Brazil has been gathering dust for the last 12 years while Recife also has yet to complete access to the stadium.
In Brasilia, construction of an overland metro system connecting the airport to the stadium has been on hold since April while in the southern city of Curitiba and northern Manaus, work has not even started.
The government however maintains that 42 of the 51 transport projects will be finished, as scheduled, next year.
In the hotel sector, Sao Paulo is the best prepared but big cities like Rio, Brasilia, Recife, Salvador and Belo Horizonte still have to increase their capacity. In Rio, 17 hotels have to be built between now and 2014.
Fifa has also been pushing lawmakers since 2007 for approval to allow beer to be drunk in venues but the dispensation has been constantly knocked back by parliament.
Sales of alcoholic beverages in sports arenas have been banned in Brazil since 2003 but the bill would create an exception, allowing beer to be sold in plastic cups at World Cup matches.
Fifa has an agreement with its sponsor, the US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser, and prohibiting beer sales would cut into the football organisation's revenues from the games.
Brazil legend Ronaldo, who is on the local organising committee, has admitted that there is some truth in Valcke's criticisms.
"Brazil said it would pass a law to govern the World Cup as long ago as 2007. There are delays in infrastructure work. There are already a lot of things delayed," he said.

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