19 May 2014

24 Days to the World Cup

One fine specimen, this Fred . . .
It’s official! The Brazilian 2014 World Cup soccer team has been selected! World Cup fever — always high in Brazil  — is now in overdrive, given that this year it's Brazil that's hosting. It's all World Cup, all the time, on television, on the radio, and splashed in newspaper headlines. But the question begs, at a mere 24 days to opening day, will this super-young, super-cute (if not outright handsome, I mean just look at Fred!) team have any stadiums to play in? Will their hotels be ready? On second thought, forget the Brazilian team, which will be as coddled as a team has ever been. For that matter, forget all the soccer teams, because FIFA has special, hand-picked employees in charge of the players. It’s the fans we should be worrying about. Will visiting fans, both foreign and national, be able to negotiate the airports? Will they find their way around the cities? Will they be okay?

One angry Blatter
FIFA has been badmouthing Brazil for months now, at the same time that they are apparently enjoying the highest profits EVER from a World Cup event. Life is full of such contradictions, right? FIFA’s president, the grumpy (but rich) Joseph Blatter, has harsh criticisms about all the stadium delays (four out of twelve stadiums have still not been completed), and he has gone as far as to blame these delays on the "sluggishness of the Brazilians." He really hit hard on this issue at a recent press conference, particularly since Brazil had — count them — seven years to prepare. Okay, hard not to concede his point. Blatter also criticized the lack of safety for the workers at the various stadium construction sites, and made sure to relieve FIFA of any responsibility for the ten deaths that have occurred. (By the way, have we heard one word, one whisper of a possible criticism on FIFA’s part about the 1,200 workers that have already died while building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup?)

So where are we? We’ve got FIFA withholding 7% of ticket sales because they have no idea if the seats they’d like to sell will actually exist. (Installation, or rather, non-installation of seats seems to be the abiding problem at the four incomplete stadiums.) We’ve got FIFA unable to conduct the usual and necessary tests of lights, cables, communication setups, Internet, security preparations, food services, bathrooms — in short, everything that has to be tested before opening to the public. FIFA is livid. Want to move on to airports? We’ve got some beautiful new terminals, but if you peek behind the curtains you see roofs that leak, air conditioning not yet working, unfinished parking garages, no lobby seating areas (what is it with Brazil and seating?) . . .

One of Brazil’s most respected and award-winning journalists, Míriam Leitão, wrote a scathing article in last Sunday’s Globo. She wrote that a country should be going after two wins when hosting a World Cup, the game championship itself and the unparalleled opportunity of being a showcase to the world. Míriam gave sharp and well-reasoned opinions as to why she thinks Brazil has already lost its showcase opportunity, and is now merely "patching up its damaged image." The best Brazil can hope for now, she continued, is the actual World Cup trophy. That was one depressing article. But who knows? Maybe Brazil will actually pull it off. Just a few more days and the whole world will have the answer.

No stadium seating? There's plenty in the lakes!
And even though Brazil has not yet f@#&ed up the 2014 World Cup, people are already writing off the 2016 Summer Olympics as a terrible disaster. Rio de Janeiro is waaaay behind in its preparations. Just as one example, one of the solemn promises Rio made to the Olympic Committee was that it would clean up the lakes in Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepagua (where most of the Olympic events will take place). But these projects haven’t even begun. We’re 806 days out, and word is that even if they were to begin working today they wouldn’t be finished until after the Olympics. Here we go again.

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