FIFA is losing patience with Brazil, as stadium construction for the 2014 World Cup continues to get hampered by delays with the quadrennial summer soccer tournament set to begin in June.
FIFA, the world soccer ruling body, had agreed to extend its deadline for completion of the Brazilian venues that will host the matches for the 2014 World Cup but progress has not met the satisfaction of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
“They started a lot too late,” said Blatter said in an interview with Switzerland’s 24 Heures. “It is the country which is the furthest behind since I’ve been at FIFA and moreover, it’s the only one that had so much time, seven years, to prepare itself.”
Six of the 12 stadiums failed to meet the Dec. 31 deadline, with delays – caused by financial problems, worker safety issues, and construction-site accidents – have also affecting work on hotels, airports, and infrastructure. Two contruction workers died in December at Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao Stadium, the venue scheduled to host the opening ceremony and the first match of the World Cup between host-nation Brazil versus Croatia, after a construction crane fell through a 500-ton metal structure that cut through the outer walls of the stadium, destroying rows of seats, and slamming into a massive LED panel that runs across the stadium’s facade.
One employee, 44-year-old Ronaldo Oliveira dos Santos, was sleeping in a restricted area while 42-year-old Fabio Luis Pereira was inside a truck that was hit by the metal structure, according to the Associated Press.
Work on three of the stadiums will likely be completed by mid-April, weeks before the start of the tournament, with FIFA setting an April 15 deadline for organizers to finish up construction. The facility in Cuiaba had an incomplete facade and roof, as of mid-December, with no seats set up – with FIFA Marketing Director Thierry Weil admiting to BBC.com that release of tickets was altered because seating plans in facilities like the one Cuiaba have not been finalized – and a muddy pitch with grass yet to grow on the field.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff took to Twitter to defend her country’s preparation for the World Cup after Blatter’s criticism to Swiss newspaper.
“Brazilians begin 2014 confident that they will host the Cup of Cups. In Brazil, the Cup will be at home, because this is the country of football,” wrote Pres. Rousseff on her official Twitter account, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Blatter also expressed concern over the protests that plagued last year’s Confederation Cup, with many Brazilians taking to the streets angry that public sector funds have been used to cover the cost of the World Cup.
Activists seem prepared to take to the streets again, much like they did during June’s Confederation Cup, with crowds swelling up to as many as 1 million people in a single day, angry that tax dollars are being spent on the World Cup and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympic Games instead of schools, hospitals, infrastructure, higher bus fares, political corruption, and poor public services.
Protests over the cost of the event has caused headaches for World Cup organizers, with the public sector putting up over $13 billion, including stadium construction costs for the World Cup having risen three times over-budget despite promises the private sector would pay for any extra costs.
“I am an optimist not a pessimist. So I am not worried. But we do know there will be again be manifestations, protests,” said Blatter to the 24 Heures. “Those during the Confederations Cup, in this same country, were generated out of the social networks. There was no specific goal but during the World Cup the protests will perhaps be more concrete, more organised. But I also believe the football will be safe, I do not believe that Brazilians will attack the football directly. For them, it’s a religion.”
Blatter reiterated last month that there was no “Plan B” and that they were depending on Brazil to come through and fulfill their promises made to FIFA in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Brazilian World Cup organizers insist that everything will be set by the time the June 12th Brazil-Croatia opening match at Itaquerao Stadium.
“Brazil has worked to prepare for the World Cup since it was chosen to host the tournament,” said Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo. “The information arriving at the Ministry of Sports, information sent by the authorities in the host cities, and details gathered by the minister himself, who visits the sites every three months, shows that the country will be ready on time.”
–Courtesy of Latino Post