With just one year to go until the start of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, host nation Brazil finds itself experiencing some difficulties with its infrastructure. As the countdown to kick-off begins in earnest, stadia, roads, rail and air traffic networks remain uncoordinated, and in many instances incomplete and behind schedule. This summer’s Confederations Cup will put the facilities and suitability of transport and venue services under scrutiny in preparation for the back-to-back global spectacles of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games hosted by Rio de Janeiro two years later.
The 12 venues selected for World Cup 2014 are in varying degrees of completion and in more worrying instances some are struggling to be deemed fit for purpose. The most recent calamity came on May 28th at the Arena Fonte Nova in the city of Salvador in the north-east of the country. One section of the stadium roof, which is made from a special canvas membrane, collapsed under the weight of accumulated rain water. The local management organisation, FNP(Fonte Nova Participacoes), who are responsible for the arena claimed ‘human error’ during routine checks just a day earlier were to blame for the tear in the roof material. But in this city in the tropics where it’s heaviest precipitation occurs during the months when the tournament takes place, this structural failure represented a PR disaster on the eve of the Confederations Cup for which the Arena Fonte Nova is scheduled to host three matches from June 20th, including the blue riband game of the group stage between Brazil and Italy on June 22nd.
The incident in Salvador is not the first time that concerns have been raised over stadium construction. Completion deadlines have been frequently missed in several locations and only two of the venues, in Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza, were ready to their intended schedule. In Sao Paulo, where the opening match of the tournament takes place on June 12th, local organisers have already admitted they face challenges to have the stadium ready for FIFA’s desired December 2013 deadline. It is estimated that only two thirds of seating will be in place by this time and that the extra 20,000 temporary seats needed to achieve the 70,000 capacity will only be added by April 2014, just two months before the opening game. Construction company, Odebrecht , who are building the stadium says it is ‘looking for solutions’ to have the speed-up the project completion time.
Other host cities have experienced problems with stadium development, to FIFA’s irritation. They have stated they want all 12 venues to be completed by December 2013 without exception. As part of this process, all stadiums and host cities must successfully stage several test events in preparation for the World Cup, but in most cases, the required amount will not be met. Two of the more high profile stadia to come under fire are the Estadio Nacional in the capital, Brasilia, and the world famous Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The Estadio Nacional has been erected at a cost of around $500 million and is one of the most costly in the entire World Cup project. The fear is that once the tournament is over the stadium will become a huge white elephant. Brasilia is without a club in Brazil’s top domestic league and is not considered a hot bed of the Brazilian game. The city did not even exist at the beginning of the 20th century and was created as the federal and administrative capital only in the late 1950’s. The iconic Maracana Stadium, which will play host to the World Cup Final, had suffered from years of neglect before renovation work began. When it finally reopened in April 2013, amid great fanfare and celebration but four months behind schedule, the local media carried headlines of flooding in the VIP area and malfunctioning seats and turnstiles. During the refurbishment it was struck by labour strikes, protests and building conflicts which have dogged most of the other stadium construction works. All this comes on top of the closure until further notice of the Joao Havelange Stadium in the same city, intended as the main athletics arena for the 2016 Olympics. The venue known as the Engenhao in Brazil, was used for football while the Maracana was under reconstruction. Structural problems with the roof deemed as a severe safety risk forced it to be closed in late March 2013.
Difficulties have not just been confined to the stadia. Another concern for Brazil is the country’s transport infrastructure. There are fears that promises of large scale investment in roads, rail, airports and security have not been met with many Brazilians calling for the head of Jose Maria Marin, the man in charge of the organising committee. They are also questioning the legacy of the event. The Brazilian government originally stated that most of the funding needed for the construction of the new stadia would be provided by private companies but it now seems likely that the taxpayers will foot around 80% of the final bill. With just 12 months to go until football’s global showcase, Brazil still has many hurdles to negotiate before it can show off its economic and industrial capabilities and to demonstrate it has successfully joined the developed world.