SÃO PAULO – President Dilma Rousseff has “guaranteed” Brazil’s airports will be prepared to welcome visitors for the World Cup, which starts on 12 June in São Paulo.
Rousseff made the comments on her weekly Café com a Presidenta national radio programme following criticism that a number of airports which were promised to be completed for the key football tournament remain unfinished.
“I guarantee that our airports are prepared for the World Cup,” Rousseff said. “We are going to welcome everyone extremely well, and Brazilians will be able to be proud of the Brazil we are building.”
The president stressed that although new and expanded airports were timed to help Brazil welcome the influx of World Cup visitors, both from abroad and traveling around the country, the new facilities were aimed primarily at improving Brazilians’ lives.
“The investments will be good for the World Cup, but much more important for meeting Brazil’s own growth in demand,” she said.
Airports in four host cities – Belo Horizonte, Cuiabá, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro – will be completed only after the tournament has finished.
‘For Brazilians, not the World Cup’
The government has admitted the delays, but the president argued in the case of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte that the airport alternations were not specifically for the World Cup but built for the longer term view.
Viracopos Airport, located in the city of Campinas around 80km northwest of São Paulo, used by many for domestic flights within Brazil and which will serve seven national teams for the World Cup, has also been delayed.
The news comes a day before the president is scheduled to open a new terminal at São Paulo’s main Guarulhos International Airport in Cumbica.
The terminal, which will boost capacity by 12 million passengers a year, has been operating since 11 May but travellers have complained of a number of issues, including the terminal’s baggage handling system.
As a result, some airlines were delaying transferring operations to the new terminal until after the World Cup had concluded, local media reported early in May.
São Paulo stadium ‘passes test’
Much of the criticism surrounding Brazil’s preparations for the tournament has centered on airports and stadiums.
However, São Paulo’s World Cup stadium got a resounding thumbs-up from tournament organisers FIFA Sunday after the venue’s official opening match.
The stadium, which will host the opening World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia on 12 June, has been a source of major tension after being beset by severe delays.
These were exacerbated by stoppages ordered after three fatal accidents, structural concerns and failures to comply with local building regulations.
However, after the début match held Sunday with 37,000 spectators, the head of FIFA’s Local Organising Committee in Brazil, Ricardo Trade, told reporters it was “one of the best tests we have ever conducted” and that only a small number of tweaks were necessary to bring the stadium up to scratch before it hosts the World Cup opener.
But the 45,000-seater stadium is a 65,000-seater venue for the World Cup, and the twin temporary stands used to boost capacity were not used during the arena’s first and only official test match.
The committee chief said an evaluation of Sunday’s test match would be carried out and they will judge along with the construction company whether an “extra test” would be required for the temporary stands.
Around 600,000 foreign tourists are set to join over 3 million Brazilians travelling to 12 host cities dotted around Brazil. Some 64 World Cup matches are set to be held between 12 June and 13 July, with the final being held in Rio’s famous Maracanã stadium.