2014 World Cup: Brazil's Stadium Delays Causing Concern
In just 477 days, Brazil will host the first 2014 World Cup match at the brand-new Arena Corinthians in Sao Paolo.
Half a million fans are expected to descend on the South American nation, taking in 64 matches at 12 stadiums across the country.
All of the stadiums have either been built from scratch, rebuilt or upgraded at a total cost estimated in December 2012 at $3.5 billion (an increase of $1 billion from initial estimates).
Almost half the world's population watched the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and billions of eyes will be trained on the action in Sao Paolo for the opening match.
Right now, however, the Arena Corinthians is a mess of trucks, cranes and construction debris.
There is not one blade of grass, nor one seat in the house, and it is working out to be a very expensive stadium.
Of the 12 stadiums, just two have been delivered: the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza and the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. The former has already hosted its first match, and both will be used in this summer's World Cup dress rehearsal, the Confederations Cup.
Yet much work needs to be done across the other ten venues, particularly the other four venues due to be used for the warm-up tournament in June. FIFA has twice agreed to push back deadlines on those tardy venues, but General Secretary Jerome Valcke has insisted there will be no extensions to the current deadline of April 15th.
Since winning the bid, Brazil has had a tempered relationship with football's governing body. Last year, Valcke insisted the hosts need "a kick up the backside" to get things ready, while FIFA—who are sponsored by Budweiser—have ruffled feathers by insisting that laws are changed to allow beer to be sold inside venues.
FIFA insist that all stadiums must be ready by the end of 2013, but several construction projects are running the risk of spilling into 2014. One of the biggest concerns is the jewel in Brazil's 2014 World Cup crown, the Maracana.
The legendary Rio de Janeiro venue—which hosted the 1950 World Cup Final and will also host the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup Finals—was initially due to open in December 2012 following $456 million of renovations.
However, a roof has yet to be added to the iconic stadium, but work has halted on account of a strike. Prior to the threat of industrial action, the state government of Rio already warned FIFA that the venue will not be ready until May, breaking Valcke's April 15th deadline.
If the issues with the workforce continue, a friendly with England in June and the Confederations Cup may need to find alternate venues.
Recent images of the futuristic-looking Arena Das Dunas in Natal also suggest the pace of construction needs to be picked up significantly.
The Arena Amazônia in Manaus will have an impressive aesthetic similar to the Bird's Nest in Beijing.
Billions of dollars are also being invested in improving infrastructure around the country. New airports are being built, public transport is being upgraded and around $900 million is being spent on security (far eclipsing the $150 million spent in South Africa).
However, according to the BBC, many commentators believe that much of the infrastructure will not be ready, even if the stadiums are. On unnamed city, they add, has 17,000 hotel rooms for a 45,000-seater stadium.
Of course, scaremongering is rife prior to major sporting tournaments. We were led to believe no athletes would be able to breath the polluted air of Beijing prior to the 2008 Olympics. There were concerns in Athens in 2004 when they were still laying bricks in the week leading up to the Games.
We were told there was no accommodation in an intolerably racist Ukraine for last summer's European Championships, and that security fears would deter fans from heading to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.
All the reports coming from Brazil may just be media-manufactured prophecies of doom that will seem utterly irrelevant at the end of summer 2014.
However, it is clear that Brazil needs to pick up the momentum with construction and infrastructure to allay the fears of a world excited to be a part of the biggest celebration of the beautiful game on the planet.
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