As the World Cup kicks off, the host country strives to overcome geography, climate and social unrest — all for the beautiful game. Here are the three biggest challenges Brazil faces to successfully staging the World Cup.
The pains of travel
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Signs of Brazil’s readiness (or lack thereof) for the World Cup are obvious to most foreigners once they land. Forget the stadiums: major airports remain unfinished, whole terminals still shut down.
And there are the actual distances. Some teams will make journeys lasting more than three hours on their chartered planes. Brazil is big enough to be its own continent, and games will be played on all ends. The United States team will cover 7,152 kilometres during the group stage — more than any other nation — as they travel from their camp in Sao Paulo to play games in Natal and Recife along the west coast and in Manaus in the Amazon. (It is a stark difference from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the U.S. had the luxury of travelling to all four of its games by bus.)
A worker died on Monday after a section of a monorail collapsed in Sao Paulo. It was supposed to link the airport with three metro lines but was already behind schedule. Another high-speed rail service, connecting Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, would have originally cost US$9-billion, but that work never began.
Hot in the north, cold in the south
It gets hot in the Amazon, so hot that a construction company had to order special chairs for the stadium built deep in the rain forests. If not, the sun would have melted the paint right off the seats. Humidity could rise up to 99% in the north of Brazil, and that’s why none of the games at Arena Amazonia will take place before 4 p.m. local time.
In Brasilia — one of the country’s largest cities — conditions could get worse. Last year it was drier there on some days than the Sahara Desert, but five matches will go ahead at 1 p.m. local time. FIFA refused to change the kick-off times, and the players’ union of Brazil even sued FIFA because of health concerns.
Soccer’s governing body does allow referees to call breaks during games, but decisions are only made on a “match-by-match basis.”
Porto Alegre could do with some of that heat. The southern city will host five matches, and temperatures there could dip below 0C at night. Close by is Curitiba, a similarly cool city that hosts four games in the group stage. Recent floods there have pushed 13,000 people out of their houses and killed at least nine.
Unrest in Brazil continues
During the Confederations Cup in June 2013, more than a million people marched on the streets across Brazil to protest the costs of the World Cup, government corruption and the lack of spending on health care.
Since then, the numbers have not swelled to the same size. But just a week before the start of the tournament, 10,000 people marched up to Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo — the venue of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on Thursday — to continue protesting the billions of dollars spent on stadium upgrades and construction. Some Brazilian players were even booed during the team’s final friendly match against Serbia.
Subway workers in Sao Paulo also went on strike last week. Officers used tear gas against scores of protestors at one of the subway stations. A vote late Wednesday evening determined the strike would not continue on opening day. It has so far caused crippling levels of traffic — on one day clogging up 179 kilometres of Sao Paulo’s roads, according to Bloomberg News.
Anthony Lopopolo, National Post