10 March 2014

94 Days to the World Cup

Back in January, when questioned as to Brazil’s preparedness for the 2014 World Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that Brazil is "the country which is the furthest behind since I’ve been at FIFA and moreover, it’s the only one that had so much time — seven years — to prepare itself." Ouch. Well, as of today there are 94 days before the World Cup kicks off. I’ve been defending Brazil all along, but now I’m worried, too. Let’s look at the scoreboard:

OK, now, just a few more seats
Stadiums are the sorest of the sore points. Across the board they have been plagued with construction delays, rising costs, and accidents. Of the 12 stadiums promised, three are still struggling to finish in time, and are not expected to be ready until May 15, less than one month before the opening match. FIFA is beyond upset. You see, once the World Cup starts it’s FIFA that is totally responsible for all the stadium operations. Normally they have time to test everything, like the bathrooms, the security setups, transportation, volunteers, food, credentials and medical support. But they are seriously running out of testing time.

An internal Brazilian government report concluded that the World Cup will result in some of the longest flight delays Brazil has ever seen. And they came to this conclusion TWO YEARS ago! The airports are the first contact most visitors will have with Brazil, but very little has been done to improve anything in the airports, from parking lots to waiting areas to air conditioning. The various airport projects promised to FIFA sit on top of a pile of broken promises. Work that was expected to be done in 7 of the 9 airports that are run by public authorities will not be completed before the start of the World Cup. For shame.

Public transportation
After all, it does say "Draft Only"
Oh, how the Brazilians hoped and prayed that the various urban transportation projects would improve their lives long after the roar of the World Cup fans faded. But all they see — day in, day out — is the same shoddy infrastructure they’ve always known. Only 5 out of 41 of the promised urban mobility projects have been delivered. Of the rest, some won’t be finished in time, and some haven’t even started. More broken promises. More shame.

FIFA is furious that it won’t have the normal 90 days it needs to equip the stadiums with IT wiring for the Internet and mobile phones. The IT standards for international broadcasts have a pretty high bar. FIFA will have to begin installing now, while some stadiums are still under construction and the cement isn’t even dry.

Fan fests

It's already over in Recife 

It seems that many of the host cities have found themselves unable to provide the outdoor areas, complete with huge viewing screens, that were required by FIFA. That leaves FIFA with no choice but to file a slew of breach-of-contract lawsuits. And that doesn’t even begin to address the worries that many cities have that these fan fests, if they come off at all, might become the settings for protests and/or vandalism. Which leads me to:

Social unrest
Here’s more recipe for disaster: growing public anger over massive government spending, which has resulted in more and more street protests; escalating violence, with gangs and vandals piggy-backing on the legitimate protests; and strikes, lots of strikes, both real (like the sanitation workers in Rio, during Carnaval no less, and still ongoing) and threatened (Rio police have threatened a World Cup strike). Not the Brazil people want to share with guests to their country and viewers around the world.

Last week in Globo online, the question for readers was: "How do you feel about the World Cup organization, three months before the event is to start?" Here’s how the voting went:

54% — Shame for the state of the airports and the constant delays.
26% — Optimism. There are problems now, but it will all work out in the end.
18% — Don’t care a fig for the World Cup.
2% — Preoccupied with the pace of construction.

But . . . it has been decreed that every day that the Brazilian team plays in the World Cup will be a national holiday. Gotta look at the bright side.

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