Brazil World Cup: fears over media coverage amid delays
Unfinished stadiums, IT systems and transport links – Brazil has a race on its hands to be ready
WHILE Brazil enjoys the annual Rio Carnival celebrations, the rest of the world appears to be fretting about the prospects of this summer's World Cup passing off as planned.
With 100 days to go until kick-off the doom-mongers are out in force, citing concerns about unfinished stadiums, problems with transport, the likelihood of anti-government protests and the possibility that telecommunications and IT issues could even prevent some games from being covered live.
"Every major sporting event has to face down doomsday predictions that typically reach a crescendo around 100 days out before being drowned out by sporting drama and emotion," notes The Guardian. "But Brazil faces a unique cocktail of unresolved issues."
Here are some of the challenges the hosts are still facing:
Brazil's construction problems have been well documented. The 12 stadiums hosting matches this summer were supposed to have been completed in December, but only six were ready and four remain unfinished now. To make matters worse some of the completed venues are already falling apart – part of the roof collapsed during a storm at the stadium in Belo Horizonte last week.
Fifa has made little effort to hide its annoyance over the problems, which arise partly from wrangling which meant that the venues were not finalised for two years after Brazil was awarded the event. “In most cities, there’s still a lot of work to do,” said secretary general Jerome Valcke last week.
"This has been a slapdash process from the beginning, and what should have been a time for test events and last-minute adjustments has become an undignified race against the clock for the four venues yet to open," says The Independent.
A knock-on effect of the problems with the stadiums is issues with the facilities inside them, particularly the communications systems needed for an event like the World Cup.
With only 100 days to go, The Times warns that "Brazil seems likely to miss deadlines for installing the essential IT facilities that will allow the event to be covered live around the globe".
The importance of proper media facilities is not lost on Valcke. "“Without IT and without the telecommunications in place in the stadium you will say we are the worst organisers and it was the worst event. But to install the IT in a stadium, it needs at least 90 days," he lamented.
The reaction of journalists to conditions in Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympics will be a concern for Fifa.
Once again the hosts have failed to live up to expectations, says the Daily Telegraph. "Many infrastructure projects originally included in the masterplan have fallen by the wayside. Transport initiatives such as the planned monorail in Manaus and a Bus Rapid Transit project in Belo Horizonte have been cancelled while others are no longer expected to be finished before June."
Airports upgrades have also been delayed and a new terminal at Fortaleza will now not even be ready for the Olympics in 2016.
Many of the problems stem from the "ridiculous decision not to group teams in geographical clusters", says the Guardian. England play their first group match in the Amazon city of Manaus, nearly 2,000 miles from their base, for example. But the paper adds that organisers have been "at pains to dismiss the more apocalyptic predictions".
So far things have not gone badly on this front, but there are already reports of tickets changing hands for thousands of pounds on the black market and such stories are likely to become more common as the event draws closer.
Cheaper tickets have been made available to locals, which has tempered criticism of the pricing. English fans have been allocated a generous 51,000 tickets and Thomson Sport has two-match packages from £5,000.
Last year's test event, the Confederations Cup, was marred by street protests against government corruption and the amount being spent on hosting the World Cup. A repeat is as much of a concern as the threat of international terrorism.
Then there is the issue of street crime, which is rife in the country. But the good news is that hooliganism is not expected, as local gangs are mainly concerned with tribal club-based feuds.
"Brazilian authorities have confirmed that 150,000 police and troops will be deployed to secure the World Cup amid fears that violent protests will resurface during the tournament," reports the Telegraph. That is three times more security personnel than was used during the Confederations Cup.
"No one seems able to accurately predict what will happen in June," says the Guardian. "Many Brazilians are at once looking forward to the World Cup while remaining fiercely critical of the demands of Fifa and the priorities of the authorities."
As usual, once the action begins the focus will shift away from off-field problems. "Even with the chaotic preparations, World Cup visitors are likely to have a wonderful time in Brazil – provided they pack a healthy dollop of patience alongside their sunscreen," says the Independent. "The irony is that this will be down to the warmth and gregariousness of the Brazilian people and the spectacular natural beauty of the country, and little to do with event organisers." ·