5 Concerns over Brazil Hosting World Cup 2014
We're all looking forward to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. I, for one, can't wait until the tournament that got me into football returns to showcase the best in the game.
But the World Cup is under threat from various problems that Brazil has not been able to fully eradicate at this point, and it is making some within FIFA nervous as the tournament draws ever nearer.
While there is concern about nearly every major sporting event in the world, they usually run without too many inconveniences to the average fan. With the next World Cup, though, we should be worried.
Read on to find out why Brazil needs to get its act together very soon.
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In all likelihood, football tourists will not see the gang violence that is so infamous in cities like Rio de Janeiro, but it is always bubbling under the placid surface, and authorities will no doubt be worried about an episode during the tournament.
Already, police (and that includes marines, special operations forces, tanks and helicopters) have begun a crackdown on street crime in one of the worst favelas in Rio. Early preparation, it seems, is the officials' main weapon.
Nevertheless, look for crime to be a recurring theme as we inch closer to 2014, intensifying with every suspected incident immediately before and during the World Cup.
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One thing I can't take is how crazy Brazilians go over their national team, even when it is apparent that they are not near the level of world-beaters Spain.
This will only intensify when Brazil's beloved sons take to their home pitches and fans clamor for another World Cup title on their own soil, as was done in 1950.
Young talents like Neymar and Oscar have already been hyped as Brazil's next great hopes, which will only set Brazilians up for disappointment when they inevitably lose to an equally talented, better organized side.
Money Flowing in All the Wrong Places
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Throughout Brazil's planning process, allegations of corruption and organizers throwing good money after bad have not ceased.
Before Ricardo Teixeira stepped down as president of the Brazilian FA, there were widespread rumors of scandalous dealings that fattened the wallets of him and his colleagues, despite the lack of actual progress in building stadiums.
Now there are concerns about why the money is being spent at all. Upwards of $1.1 billion continues to go to building entirely new facilities in multiple locations, including the capital of Brasilia, but there are no teams to occupy them after the World Cup is over and little possibility that Brazilians will see a return on investment.
When revenue is a central argument in favor of staging a major sporting event like the World Cup and there is little to be found, it makes the entire operation pointless.
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To process an estimated 600,000 tourists due to arrive for the festivities in two years, it has been suggested that Brazil make temporary improvements to its airports and seaports.
Sounds reasonable enough, but there have been major problems with even this crucial logistical aspect of staging a World Cup.
The majority of Brazilians are skeptical, with 85 percent from a recent poll saying that they believe corruption is inevitable in this process, which produces a very fragile solution to a huge issue. Getting people into the country is not the worst of it, however.
With games being staged across multiple time zones and thousands of miles, fans and players will have to rely on a notoriously weak infrastructure and mass transit system that has long been neglected. Without an effective way to move large amounts of people, every element of the Brazilian authorities will find itself stretched to its limit.
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You can't have football matches without pitches to play on and stands for fans to watch from, so new stadium construction and old stadium renovation have become huge issues ahead of the World Cup.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that only five percent of tournament-related projects have been completed, and a large percentage have not even been started. Indeed, a quick image search reveals that many venues are still quite naked.
FIFA has been bellyaching about this issue for months, and when Brazilian officials have pushed back, their criticisms merely became more subtle.
Secretary General Jerome Valcke, while not extremely concerned about World Cup readiness, has urged cities to speed up their work, citing "concern about a few stadiums" that are not ready yet.
Whether everything is done professionally and in time is a question that remains to be answered, but let's hope that we will only have to talk about footballing matters when Brazil kicks off the World Cup in 2014.