When Brazil was officially handed the 2014 World Cup back in 2007 the original idea was to encourage private companies to undertake the construction and renovation of the host stadiums, thus freeing up public money to invest in public transport, airports and infrastructure. This was a beautiful idea. Construction and investment firms would have contributed to the tournament and would have been handsomely rewarded for their efforts and the people would have gotten the investment desperately needed in public services that are currently, to be blunt, atrocious.
7 years later, R$91b of public money spent and stadiums still not delivered and it’s obvious that something didn’t quite go to plan.
The government, quite naively, shot themselves in the foot. Everyone knew that Brazil would not back out of hosting the World Cup, and the companies which held the funds that was key to the government’s blueprint knew that there was a lot of money to be made. As time passed it became clear that the private sector was not going to fulfil the role penned out by Government, so public cash had to be utilised.
Since then we’ve had strikes, go-slows, disasters, tragedies, protests and riots. What he haven’t had, in general, is deadlines being met and stadiums being delivered up to spec. The Arena Amazonia held its first game a few weeks’ back with complaints of non-existent seats being sold and the new roof leaking (exactly what you don’t want in the middle of a rainforest). The Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá held its first game this week, complete with flooding outside the stadium and building materials strewn around the place. The mayor of Cuiabá has assured us that the stadium will be ready, but that they don’t have anywhere for fans to stay. That’s ok, then.
Thanks to the aforementioned R$91b being poured into building and renovating stadiums, construction of trams, trains and metros have been shelved all over the country. Airports have also lost the investment that they desperately need. If you’re flying into Rio have a look at the state of Galeão Airport – and this, the busiest gateway into South America, the international airport to the continent’s most visited city. The infrastructure upgrades that had been promised, and are desperately needed, have been sacrificed for a month’s worth of footy.
Down in São Paulo construction on the Arena Corinthians has been stopped after another worker died attempting to erect temporary seating; pressure to work quickly has been blamed for the tragedy. The stadium, which is still not completed, let alone tested, is pencilled in to host the opening ceremony and first game of the tournament. I can totally see it happening. Being serious though, the number of deaths now stands at 8 for this World Cup (I don’t even want to hazard a guess at the number already in Qatar), but this is what old Sepp wanted so I hope he can sleep at night.
Talking about the Arena Corinthians – this is a sore point. If you ever meet a São Paulo fan try to engage him on the subject, he’ll soon be spitting blood. São Paulo’s Morumbi Stadium was earmarked to be renovated and to host the opening ceremony, however, the then Corinthians president, Andrés Sanches was best mates with the then CBF president, Ricardo Teixeira and between them they came up with blueprints for a brand new stadium that would be cheaper than the renovations the Morumbi needed. How this is possible, not many people appear to know. Teixeira removed the Morumbi from the host stadiums list and gave the go-ahead for the Arena Corinthians. Corinthians are on course to be handed a brand new 40,000 seater stadium paid for and built with public money. Smooth.
Two weeks’ ago I read a BBC headline stating that a host city may have to pull out of the World Cup. If you read my last blog you might have assumed that the city in question must surely be Cuiabá, maybe Manaus, or possibly Brasilia. I was gobsmacked to read that it was actually Porto Alegre that was in danger of missing out! Porto Alegre is the home city of two footballing giants: Grêmio and Internacional, these clubs give the country its best derby, the ‘GreNal’. So why was it that a football-mad city would have to pull out when cities with no football teams to speak of are in no such danger? Basically because the money had run out. Because the public purse had completely dried up and without private sector investment they had no way to complete the works needed, in the words of the mayor, “There is no ‘Plan B’”. Seeing a great opportunity, the construction firms sat back and held the government to ransom. They would not help unless a deal could be struck. At the eleventh hour the politicians agreed to award tax breaks to those companies investing in the completion of the Beira-Rio Stadium. Once again, it’s the taxpayer that coughs up. But at least they’ll get their 5 World Cup matches, eh?
We had some rain yesterday and the national airport (Santos Dumont) was flooded pretty badly, cars were washed away and all that. It’ll be fine, man, honest.
State championships, pile of shite. Carioca Championship, two legged final over the next two Sundays between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama. I predict Vasco will continue in their incredible run of runners-up spot and be VICE DENOVO! They’ve done something mad like lose every final they’ve been in since 2007 (care to clarify, Norman?).
However, the Libertadores group stage is winding up and it looks like Brazil will have a pretty decent showing in the knock-out stages. Botafogo are second in their group and I think a draw against bottom placed San Lorenzo (ring any bells) will be enough to see them through. Current champions Atlético Mineiro are a point clear at the top of their group, and with 1st v 2nd in the final match, they’re good to go, their cross city rivals and Brazilian champions, Cruzeiro, however, are 5 points adrift in 3rd spot and are out. Porto Alegre’s Grêmio are 3 points clear at the top their group, while Flamengo got a great away win at Emelec of Equador last night, they are in 3rd spot with an outside chance of progressing.
I may be wrong, but I believe that this tournament is the first ever Libertadores without a team from São Paulo.
Some great team names in this years’ Libertadores – we’ll all have heard of Newell’s Old Boys and The Strongest, but bottom of Group 3 is O’Higgins. So mad I had to check, they’re named after Bernardo O’Higgins Requelme – a founding father and the 2nd Supreme Director of Chile. Brilliant.