FIFA official says World Cup soccer fans will have hard time in Brazil


Workers stand outside the Arena da Baixada stadium in the southern city of Curitiba, Brazil. (Andrey Heuler/AFP/Getty Images)

First, we heard Olympic preparations weren’t going well in Rio. Luckily, they still have a couple of years to go. Preparations for the World Cup, on the other hand, are now the main focus, and with just 34 days until the competition begins, we’re learning it’s not Rio that might have the most problems, but the other 11 cities slated to host World Cup games. This spells trouble for everyone but particularly the fans, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told Reuters. The biggest problem, he said, is the lack of infrastructure:

“I know it’s difficult to speak without creating a number of problems…but my message to the fans would be just make sure you are organized when you go to Brazil.

“You cannot sleep on the beach, firstly because it’s winter. … Make sure you organize your accommodation, you cannot just arrive with a backpack and start walking, there are no trains, you cannot drive [from one venue to another].

“Don’t just turn up thinking it is in Germany, that it’s easy to move around the country. In Germany, you could sleep in your car, you can’t do that [in Brazil].”

Unlike the Olympics, where all the events take place near each other, the World Cup is different. It’s usually held in eight venues spread around the host country. This year, that spread is even bigger. Brazil’s World Cup will take place in 12 stadiums spread out over 12 cities that are sometimes thousands of miles apart. To circumnavigate all 12 cities, starting in Rio de Janeiro and traveling counterclockwise by land, you’d have to venture roughly 10,000 miles, according to Google Maps, on often inhospitable roads.

One may wonder why no one predicted this infrastructural problem. Oh, but they did. World Cup officials just didn’t say anything. Valcke told Reuters:

“How do you say [in advance] it is not going to work?”

The issue isn’t just geographical, but also political. Like the Olympics, the World Cup isn’t solely about the competition, it’s also a chance for world leaders to show off the strengths of their country. For Brazil’s president at the time, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, that meant spreading the World Cup out to touch more areas of the country to showcase wider spread economic development.

Unfortunately, despite having nearly seven years to ramp up its infrastructure, Brazil still lacks adequate transportation, both on the ground and in the air. Obviously, this could pose a huge problem for fans hoping to catch their favorite teams, who are each scheduled to appear in at least three of the 12 venues. This transportation problem is especially evident in Manaus, a city of 2 million located amid the rainforest jungles of the Amazon. Here’s the Los Angeles Times:

“Since there are no highways to the city, those who aren’t willing to spend days traveling up the Amazon by boat will rely on Brazil’s overstretched air transportation system, taking a four-hour flight that costs about $400 from Rio de Janeiro. One recent trip by air from Manaus to the coastal city of Natal, another World Cup city, required three stops and took more than 10 hours.”

Besides the wacky routes, some of the airports, themselves, are ill-equipped. Reuters writes, “In one case, a temporary canvas terminal will be used instead of a planned airport expansion to receive fans in Fortaleza,” a city of about 3 million located in Northeastern Brazil. Construction workers simply ran out of time and could not finished the planned project.

That terminal won’t be the only structure constructed out of canvas, so will some of the most needed buildings. The Washington Post writes:

“The six-story metal skeleton jutting out from the World Cup soccer stadium [in Curitiba, a city with a population of about 1.7 million in the state of Parana] was to be the international media center. But when the games start next month, the world’s journalists will be housed in tents in the parking lot beside it.”

For those of us who will follow the competition online, let’s hope that tent at least has Wi-Fi.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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