Is Brazil ready for the Cup, the fans and the fun?
We asked correspondent Dom Phillips, based in Rio, to break it down for us with just more than two weeks to go before the first match.
1. Will the stadiums be ready?
Yes, though three have gone right down to the wire — Curitiba, Cuiabá and São Paulo.
The São Paulo stadium, where the opening game will be held June 12, was barely finished for its test-game debut May 18, with some fans getting soaked in a hailstorm because the roof wasn't finished in some areas, nor will it be, according the Associated Press.
2. Will there be protests and strikes?
Protests and unrest will happen — groups have begun scheduling demonstrations for next month and police and bus drivers have gone on strike in several cities in recent weeks. Things can get violent, as happened outside Rio's Maracanã during the 2013 Confederation Cup final. Nobody knows for sure, but nothing is expected on the scale of the protest in Rio last summer that drew hundreds of thousands of people.
3. How safe is Brazil going to be?
A lot safer than it normally is. Violent crime is a hazard in all Brazilian cities. Robberies and violent crimes in São Paulo are increasing, crime rates in Rio rose last year, and there have been more attacks on police bases in some of Rio's slums. But the government will flood the streets with 157,000 military and police personnel and will use the army if protests get out of hand.
4. What's the mood like right now?
It is mixed. Many Brazilians have yet to get Cup spirit because they believe the money spent on stadiums should have been spent on more pressing issues, such as health and education. But this is the country of football — I mean soccer. The game is played everywhere and many Brazilians are fanatically collecting players' stickers for official World Cup albums. There are even meets arranged for fans to swap stickers. Crowds in Manaus and Belém lined up to see the World Cup trophy on a nationwide tour.
But much will depend on how the Brazil team performs.
5. So what are Brazil's chances of winning?
Opinion is divided — many bookmakers put the team as a favorite, but Brazil's notoriously fickle fans argue that it has just two great players: Neymar and Thiago Silva. What happens if one of them is injured, they ask?
The last time Brazil won the World Cup, in 2002, the team had four great players — Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. But Brazil was impressive in the 2013 Confederation Cup, beating Spain in the final. Defender David Luiz said last week that the mood in the squad was the best he had ever seen, and they have the home crowd advantage. In soccer, anything can happen.
6. What will the airports be like?
On an ordinary weekday morning, at say 6 a.m., the domestic airports in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are crowded and chaotic. Brazil's decade of economic growth has pushed airports beyond capacity in many cases as more Brazilians are flying than ever before. Renovations and new terminals have, like many World Cup works, happened late, if at all — but new terminals have opened in Brasília and São Paulo. Delays, problems and confusion are all possible.
7. What about accommodations?
Accommodation is expensive in Brazil and reports of exorbitant pricing nationwide abounded in the run-up to the World Cup. But there are signs that high prices and protests might have scared some tourists off. According to a survey released May 20 by the Brazil Hotel Operators Forum, hotels in São Paulo are at just 31 percent capacity.
8. Are many Americans going?
It looks that way. The U.S. Consulate in Rio said 187,000 tickets have been bought by American credit card holders and estimates 80,000 U.S. visitors will come. The consulate also has 60,000 Brazil-resident Americans registered in just the three states it covers: Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Espírito Santo. Americans are the single biggest foreign contingent for the first game in Curitiba, between Nigeria and Iran, on June 16 – with 7.8 percent of tickets sold.
9. Where will Brazilians watch the games?
In 2010, thousands watched on free screens in city centers, and others thronged bars. But most Brazilians watch the World Cup at home. "We like to bring people together, invite family and friends, make some food and watch it together," said Katiane de Souza in Rio de Janeiro, who will wear a Brazil shirt for games.
10. Is this going to be one big party?
Yes, as long as Brazil is winning.