The Economist – Brazil has already scored an Own Goal in the World Cup

The World Cup

Pitch imperfect

They think it’s all over budget

Down to the finishing touches

FOOTBALL’S World Cup was meant to display Brazil’s coming-of-age as a global player. Instead, the preparations have illustrated the improvisation for which the country is nearly as famous as its footballers. With less than a month to go, organisers are scrambling to get everything ready. A swanky new terminal opened at Guarulhos Airport in São Paulo on May 11th. But just eight airlines will be operating there next month, not 25 as planned. Chunks of the airport in Belo Horizonte, another host city, are wrapped in scaffolding and sprinkled with dust—and will remain so well after the tournament ends in July.

Unfinished work at Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo means only 40,000 fans will attend a pre-tournament test game on May 18th, well shy of the 68,000 expected at the opening match on June 12th. The media centre at the stadium in Curitiba won’t be ready for the event; journalists will slum it in a tent.

Red tape and overlapping federal, state and municipal fiefs have snarled projects. Jérôme Valcke, secretary-general of FIFA, football’s governing body, has described dealing with Brazilian authorities as “hell”. Eight construction workers have died in accidents, six more than in South Africa four years ago. FIFA insists stadiums will be ready when fans start pouring in. But delays have left little time to install and test telecommunications kit, prompting worries over patchy television and radio transmission.

Cost overruns, partly blamed on alleged price-gouging, mean that, measured by the cost of a seat, Brazil now boasts ten of the world’s 20 most expensive football venues, according to KPMG, a consultancy. The whitest of these elephants, in Brasília, may end up consuming 2 billion reais ($900m), nearly triple the initial estimate. After the Cup it is unlikely ever to draw capacity crowds again, as the city lacks a good league side.

A promised public-works bonanza has not materialised. Brazil’s government insisted on staging games in 12 cities, rather than the required eight, in order to spread the benefits across the country. It succeeded only in spreading itself thin. Just five of 35 planned urban-mobility schemes are complete. Fans will use buses or taxis to get to most city centres.

Support for hosting the World Cup has fallen sharply, from 79% after it was awarded to Brazil in 2007 to 48% now, according to Datafolha, a pollster. Given Brazilians’ love of football and knack for making merry, the tournament is almost certain to be a blast. But the legacy has been left in the changing-rooms.

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About Janar Wasito

Janar Wasito is the manager of Magis Capital in San Diego, CA. He is a graduate of Harvard and Stanford Law School, and a former Marine Officer.
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