Brazilian Sports Minister Goes on the Defensive, Insists Stadiums Will Be Ready
Aldo Rebelo struck a defensive tone, Monday, insisting all World Cup stadiums—including the much-delayed Arena Amazonia in Manaus—would be delivered by FIFA’s December deadline.
In a conference call with the international press (in which Bleacher Report participated), Rebelo, the Brazilian minister of sport, also gave his country’s overall World Cup preparations a “9 out of 10,” saying all requirements had been executed “in accordance with expectations.”
But, he conceded in regards to several of the unfinished stadiums, “we could have delivered them sooner.”
One of those stadiums, located in the isolated, Amazon outpost of Manaus, is still far from finished, with the Guardian estimating its roof to be only 60 per cent complete. There have also been concerns about hotel accommodations in the city of 2.3 million people, and given the local football team’s position in the fourth division, it has been suggested the Arena Amazonia could end up becoming a “white elephant.”
Rebelo, however, shot down the notion that several of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums would linger unused and in ill repair following next year’s tournament.
“These stadiums have been conceived as multi-purpose arenas and will hold many sporting events and non sporting events,” he said, citing fairs, concerts and exhibitions as examples. “There is no chance that these stadiums will become white elephants.”
He became particularly defensive when questioned specifically about Manaus, saying those who doubted the city’s preparedness, as well as the abilities of Brasilia, Cuiaba and Natal to complete their projects on time, were doing so “without any idea of what those metropolises actually are.”
He added: “They don’t know the cities; they don’t know that they are actually relevant metropolises in their respective regions of the country.”
His tone struck a rather different note than when questioned about Manaus by this reporter back in January, at which time he admitted the government and organizing committee were “keeping a close eye” on the northwestern city.
Rebelo also revealed the new Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo—which is scheduled to host the opening match of the World Cup—was only “76 per cent” complete, although he remained confident it would be delivered in December, along with the other five stadiums yet to be finished.
Regarding safety concerns, particularly in light of some recent, high-profile incidents in the country (including the mugging of a journalist in Rio de Janeiro), Rebelo said his government would be paying special attention to safety and security, not only for public citizens but also for the teams, tourists, journalists and various delegations that would be making their way to Brazil in 12 months time.
Referencing the Munich Massacre during the 1972 Olympic Games and recent bombings at the Boston Marathon as high-profile events where security had failed, he said Brazil would be doing everything possible to “reduce exposure to risk,” both during the upcoming Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.
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