, BRASILIA, Dec 2 – Brazil\’s preparations to host the 2014 football World Cup are coming along so slowly that doubts are forming not only above that event but also over the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio.
Practically all the works which were to have been carried out starting in May in the 12 venues across Brazil for the football tournament have run into delays, and the December 2012 deadline for completion is looking iffy.
Yet that\’s the date needed because Brazil is also hosting FIFA\’s Confederation Cup in 2013.
In June this year, just half the 12 Brazilian cities hosting games have started work to get stadiums and infrastructure into shape, triggering a warning from FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke to get cracking.
One of the major problems was identifying a suitable facility in Brazil\’s megalopolis of Sao Paulo after the city\’s flagship Morumbi stadium was eliminated because of lack of financial guarantees.
The city\’s Corinthinas club said it was to build a new stadium with an eye to getting it approved for the World Cup.
Much of the international focus, though, is on Rio\’s legendary Maracana stadium. The venue, considered the temple of Brazil\’s "beautiful game," is being renovated to the tune of 400 million dollars.
This far out, however, neither the Brazilian Football Confederation nor FIFA seem overly concerned, publicly expressing confidence that all will be right on the day.
FIFA president Joseph Blatter last month told the Brazilian sporting daily that he was not preoccupied with the delays and was "certain that Brazil will get there."
"Up to now, I\’m very happy with progress. I have no doubt that the Cup in Brazil will be grand," he said.
"I know there are some problems. But if there weren\’t any problems, then we could be holding the games tomorrow.
"We still have three and half years to go, and I am sure that all the solutions will be found."
The infrastructure of the venues appears to be the least of the concerns, because Brazil\’s federal and state governments are resolved to get them ready on time.
A more troublesome challenge is the situation in Brazil\’s airports, which officials say are already saturated and creaking under the strain of a burgeoning domestic market.
Flight delays and cancelations are commonplace, as are interminable lines for check-in.
Massive public and private investment is needed to expand facilities in time for the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend the World Cup and the Olympic Games, and the period in-between.
Another concern is security, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where a bloody conflict between criminal gangs and police reasserting control over a slum zone dominated headlines last week.
The federal government has shown it will back the security efforts of Rio de Janeiro state, authorizing soldiers to deploy in the slums into next year and maybe beyond.
But with a third of Rio\’s six million residents living in the shantytowns, the scale of the problem is so huge that other measures will also be needed.
The US government has identified security as such a challenge that it sees big opportunities for US defense and private contractors, according to diplomatic cables released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.