RIO DE JANEIRO – Well, that was that. Brazilians had been hungry to host another World Cup final in Rio’s historic Maracanã stadium since 1950, and although in the end things didn’t go to plan on the pitch, many have praised the country’s enthusiasm, hospitality and what turned out to be a dramatic and unforgettable World Cup.
GUARULHOS, SÃO PAULO – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff officially opened a long-awaited new international terminal at São Paulo’s main Guarulhos international airport on Tuesday, three weeks before the country hosts the World Cup.
Rousseff said the new glass and steel terminal represented a transformation in the Brazilian population, more and more of whom are now able to afford flying as a travel option after 46 million Brazilians moved up on the social ladder into the economic middle classes.
“The changes that we have made here are part of the work done to address the real transformation seen from when we saw 36 million people travelling by plane at the beginning of the decade, to 111 million today,” she said.
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.
SAO PAULO – Just 41% of projects promised by the Brazilian government for the World Cup tournament are complete as the final 30-day countdown to the tournament begins, a report said on Tuesday.
Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said it had checked all 167 World Cup projects announced by the government in 2010 and found that just 68 were ready.
A further 88 projects are unfinished or will be left until after the key football tournament. Eleven have been abandoned altogether, the newspaper said.
Brazil’s southern city of Curitiba has been granted a reprieve and will be kept on as a World Cup host city, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke confirmed on Tuesday.
The news was confirmed on Valcke’s personal Twitter account ahead of appearing before members of the press at the FIFA Workshop in Florianópolis:
Valcke continued that: “It’s a race against a very tight timeline. Collective effort by all the stakeholders involved in Curitiba must continue at highest pace.”
Even before the official FIFA announcement came, Curitiba mayor Gustavo Fruet had confirmed to local media that the city would remain in World Cup, citing an earlier telephone conversation with the FIFA Secretary General to inform the mayor what would be said at the press conference.
Valcke said Curitiba had understood the pressure it faced but had convinced FIFA that it could finish the job on time.
Curitiba is due to host four first-round fixtures, starting on 16 June with Iran v Nigeria, and followed by Honduras v Ecuador on 20 June, Australia v Spain on 23 June, and Alegria v Russia on 26 June.
FIFA’s biggest headache
Valcke told reporters on Tuesday that the Curitiba stadium, known as the Arena da Baixada, would be handed over to FIFA on or around 15 May, a month before holding its first World Cup fixture, and that at least two test matches – one at the end of March, one at the end of April – would be conducted ahead of this.
The decision was made as FIFA’s Charles Botta visited the stadium. Workers reportedly scrambled to cover muddy patches in the stadium entrance just before the official arrived, Folha reported.
This inspection, plus ‘guarantees’ from Curitiba, finally convinced FIFA that the city should be retained as a World Cup host.
The city’s newly-renovated 41,500-seater stadium has been FIFA’s biggest headache in the run-up to the tournament, and even now is only reportedly 90 percent ready and is the country’s most delayed stadium.
Last week some Brazilian media outlets, including Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, said FIFA had started working on contingency plans to move games schedule to be held in Curitiba to nearby stadiums – likely to include Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Belo Horizonte – but this was denied by FIFA and local officials.
However, most Brazilian commentators said it would have been unthinkable to many for Curitiba to have lost its World Cup venue status: both for a local government that is in an election year and for FIFA itself in effect to admit that it had lost control of one of its tournament’s host cities.
Beset by funding delays
Local officials say one of the main reasons that the Arena da Baixada has been so delayed was that crucial funding was delayed.
After private funding of R$234 million (US$97.5 million) to renovate the 100-year-old stadium ran out, an extra R$90 million of public money was pledged used to get the stadium finished. Local authorities recently released another R$39 million for additional workers.
Even so, it is the cheapest of the twelve World Cup stadium projects, alongside the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.
It is understood that both private and public sources came up against severe delays securing and receiving funding from the country’s National Development Fund Bank, the BNDES.
However, concerns over safety have also contributed, after work at the stadium was temporarily halted in October 2013 after a slew of reported safety breaches.
Public reaction to the news
A sense of relief now reigns among Curitibanos – people from Curitiba. Among them is 24-year-old student Ricardo Becker, who has tickets for the match on 23 June when Australia take on reigning champions Spain:
“I’m thrilled. It would have been a real shame if not, not to mention testament to a city’s incompetence and lack of accountability. Even so, I do resent how overpriced the work on the stadium has been and how public money has gone missing,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Communication corodinator Camila Tremea, 29, said she was also relieved, given the amount of time and money that has already been invested by the city in the project: “With just a few months to go to the World Cup, you couldn’t have taken it away from the city. The city’s businesses have prepared for this.”
Leonardo Bittencourt, a 35-year-old English teacher also from Curitiba, told AA he thought the World Cup would be a “good thing” for both Curitiba and Brazil as a whole, as it should improve its international image in the end, despite the “obscene amounts of money apparently wasted and misappropriated,” he added.
Coaches of all 32 qualifying FIFA World Cup teams have gathered in Florianópolis, one of Brazil’s top beach resort cities, for a three-day workshop that is traditionally used to thrash out the finer details of World Cup rules and regulations, logistics and the like.
Delegation leaders, team managers, security and medical officials and members of the press from World Cup finalist nations are taking part in the event, which should ideally be held at a time when the finishing touches are being put in place by the World Cup host nation.
However, this time the seminar has been overshadowed by speculation Curitiba would be stripped of its hosting rights, which was in the end proved incorrect.
Edited, extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency
There’s just a year to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off, and Brazil is in overdrive to get everything ready, including reassuring Brazilians that their side stands a chance of at least reaching the final.
Twelve stadiums in twelve host cities – stretching from Amazon jungle capital Manaus to the southern cowboy lands of Porto Alegre – must all be ready for kick-off on 12 June 2014 for the half a million tourists due to descend on the country.
If you’re in one of the host cities, it is pretty much impossible to miss the fact that the world’s biggest football event is headed that way, and unknown smaller cities are relishing having a global audience. Shopping centres have had emblazoned with sponsors’ slogans, such as “Tô preparado” (I’m ready).
One year out, Brazilians are, by and large, quietly excited about the World Cup’s arrival, seen as the sport’s greatest tournament coming home. But I was personally expecting more in terms of passion from the “Land of Football” – more pride, more “Go, Brazil!”.
Instead I hear many people talking about damage limitation: hopes that the country’s natural beauty, sizzling sunshine, vivid culture and infectious positivity will distract onlookers from any logistical problems that might affect the tournament.
There’s been a lot of speculation over whether the stadiums will be ready: at least one stadium (Curitiba‘s Arena da Baixada) is reportedly on course for completion in 2015 – after the World Cup has been and gone. But in truth, we can be pretty sure that Brazil will have the stadiums ready, whatever the cost and whoever gets it done.
However, less certain are the extra benefits that Brazilians were promised in exchange for multi-billion-dollar layouts on the events – the legacy of new infrastructure, security, and anti-poverty social programs – used to justify hosting the event, which many Brazilians feel “isn’t for us, it’s for the gringos (Western foreigners).”
Some 101 projects were promised, but at least 14 aren’t happening at all: the fabled World Cup “legacy” has yet to materialise in many places and has been severely or completely cut in others, with accusations of embezzled funds and other associated scandals (although this is something Brazilians are pretty much used to).
All this has conspired to create a growing proportion of the population questioning whether, at R$31 billion and rising, Brazil can really afford to host the World Cup, particularly given the state of its economy, which has sunk from the dizzy heights of 7.5% GDP growth in 2010 to just 0.9% in 2012.
“I’m against it being here,” says one of my Brazilians friends. “They’ve promised a lot but who knows whether it’ll be positive for Brazil or not. If it helps tourism, then fine, but imagine if things go wrong… and are we really benefiting from it?”
A less sceptical friend says, “I can’t wait for it to come here and I’ll be proud to be Brazilians when it does. Whatever happens, it’ll be great.”
Sentiment towards the Cup would probably be rosier if Brazilians thought they were going to be led to a stunning victory.
But despite being a land of football fanatics and historical World Cup champions, with five wins to their name and the most goals scored, Brazilians don’t appear to be holding their breath for a Brazil win.
Although spirits were raised slightly after Brazil recently thrashed France 3:0 in a friendly ahead of the Confederations Games – the prelude competition to the World Cup, which starts this weekend (with Brazil as reigning champions), the national side, the Seleção, has disappointed in recent times and, despite many promising individual talents on the field, Brazilians are losing interest in their squad.
This turns up the heat on Brazil coach Luiz “Felipão” Scolari, who will certainly be looking to put on a good show in the run-up to the big event next year, otherwise the current lacklustre feeling among Brazilians for their home side might well last all the way to the World Cup.
And of course, Brazilians are also desperate not to see a repeat of the last time the tournament was held here, in 1950, when they were defeated by neighbours Uruguay in a bitterly-fought final. The pain of that day, even for young Brazilians who weren’t there, is still raw.
The final point we should probably consider is this: however Brazil performs at the World Cup will also determine expectations for the next big event on the country’s calendar, the Olympics in 2016.
This is the full, unedited English version of a blog written for the BBC Russian Service
The Brazilian Senate has approved by a wide majority a bill that changes rules governing how the country’s ports are regulated, in a victory for the ruling government, despite last-minute attempts by opposing senators to derail the bill.
The bill aims to open state-run ports to more private investment and lift restrictions on the building of privately-run ports.
Officially known as MP 595, the bill was voted in without amendment after receiving the support of 53 votes, with just seven votes against and five abstentions. The text now goes to President Dilma Rousseff for evaluation.
The bill finally reached the Senate on Thursday after a final 40 hours of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, many of whom had expressed their frustration and sheer exhaustion following the longest-running debate by deputies in the last 22 years.
According to Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat, this approval was vital, but most of the work remains ahead to work out the finer detail of new ports regulations, which would be analysed “item by item.”
Paulo Skaf, President of the Federation of Industry of São Paulo State (FIESP), said the bill was vital for the country’s competitiveness:
“Brazil is calling for a clash of competition. The measure meets the demands of the most important production sectors: it allows an increase in what operators can offer, promotes greater competition and, consequently, reduces port costs,” Mr Skaf said.
The bill was also seen by many as an important step towards making sure the country’s ports – considered a serious bottleneck in Brazil’s external trade – work more efficiently, eradicating excessive waits currently endured for cargo to be unloaded.
It was recently reported that ports that should have started running 24 hours a day since mid-April were still failing to do so.
The government has earmarked over R$54 billion for 159 port projects through Brazil to be implemented by 2016 as part of plans to improve the country’s infrastructure, also including upgrades to airports, roads and railways.
First published on The Rio Times website.
Investing in Brazil’s concession plans, which represent billions of reais of infrastructure contracts, could provide the answer for troubled European economies, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said during an official trip to Spain.
The state of the European economy and potential business deals were top of Brazil’s agenda on the visit, and other issues, including past immigration issues, were pushed aside.
President Rousseff, who also attended the 22nd Ibero-American Summit in Cádiz, criticized “excessive austerity measures”, making reference to the IMF’s recommendations, and reiterated her belief that only by sustained growth through investment can a country emerge from such an economic crisis, pledging her country’s support:
“Brazil can and must contribute to more economic growth, more options for solving the crisis, because this must be done through growth,” President Rousseff said, speaking alongside Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the capital, Madrid.
The president used the opportunity to rally other countries to help Europe get itself out of the crisis, and left little doubt as to where she believed Spain should aim this crisis-averting investment.
Rousseff noted favorable conditions for concession projects, including the R$133 billion (US$64 billion) already announced for roads and railways, with more to come for ports and airports, as well as R$30 billion committed to the Rio-São Paulo trem-bala (high-speed train).
Contracts for telecom infrastructure would be available, an area where Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica already has a foothold through Vivo, Brazil’s second largest telecoms company.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos I said he wanted Brazil to “count on Spanish companies” for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, advocating “the possibility of procedures facilitating highly-skilled Spanish workers to stay temporarily [in Brazil]. At the same, we want to encourage Brazilian companies to invest in Spain.”
Read the full article on The Rio Times site.