RIO DE JANEIRO, July 12 – World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil will put on a spectacular show as the event comes to South America for the first time in almost 40 years, organisers and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva insist.Keen fan Lula had been hoping to see a sixth title achieved in South Africa this summer but a quarter-final loss to Holland put paid to that.
Now the focus switches instead to what will be the first tournament hosted by the most successful nation in the history of the competition since 1950 – memories of which Brazilian fans would like to forget as that edition culminated in a shock final loss to Uruguay.
On that occasion, 200,000 people crammed into Rio’s mythical Maracana stadium to watch the final.
"To lose in 2010 could be understood, but to lose in 2014 would be a repeat of 1950 and this is something nobody can imagine," said Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) who is also head of the 2014 organising committee.
That sentiment is driving organisers on – although Teixeira said during a prsentation in Johannesburg last week that much work remained to be done.
"The problem for 2014 is the airports, the airports and the airports," Teixeira admitted.
That brought a strong riposte Saturday from Lula, himself a big fan of the sport, even as he headed back after cutting short his visit to South Africa to deal with severe flooding in the northeast of the country.
Lula says that Brazil may expect to face the same doubts as to its capacity to host the event as South Africa did before the tournament came to Africa for the first time.
But with 2010 having passed off without major organisational mishap Lula insists Brazil will be ready to host "the best World Cup ever seen on the planet."
According to the president, "Brazil will invest in infrastructure by 2014 more than it has invested in the past 30 years," citing forecasts of 624 billion dollars in infrastructural projects ahead of the big kick-off.
"We don’t want to organise a Cup of which people go home saying the plane was unable to land because of a hole on the runway," A Folha daily quoted him as saying.
Already, the bill to renovate 16 airport terminals has shot up to seven billion dollars in order to boost capacity of 66 percent.
Brazil, still getting over its loss to the Dutch, now enter an entirely new cycle and are determined to deliver a memorable World Cup to showcase the country ahead of the additional challenge of hosting the 2016 Olympics.
Work on stadia has progressed fitfully with the planned arena of Morumbi in Sao Paulo, a teeming city of 17 million and the country’s largest, being cut from the programme by world governing body FIFA for failing to deliver on financial guarantees.
The refurbishment of the Maracana is also causing headaches with tenders for the work estimated at costing 400 million dollars already postponed once.
So far, FIFA had approved six of the 12 host cities – Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Manaus and Porto Alegre.
The construction or renovation of stadia form part of a list of 86 government-backed projects which will cost a total of 13.2 billion dollars.
Organisers expect around three million extra tourists during the tournament, an increase of 79 percent on the traditional annual figure, adding to the problems of choked airports, some of which are close to "operational collapse", according to one study.
"But contracts have been agreed and this question will receive the utmost priority. We have developed a communal transport system."
Former Brazil star Romario, a world champion in 1994, is doing his bit for the 2014 organisers and said: "I hope it will be a chance to show you the true face of Brazil. You will see what football means to Brazilians. I am sure the atmosphere will be unprecedented."a