World Cup season has officially started with teams throwing in their hats to get a chance at a series of qualifying rounds for the mundial in Brazil. However, as footballers fight for a chance to compete and fans slowly build their savings accounts for the trip in 2014, many of Brazil’s host cities have yet to prepare for the incredible horde preparing to descend on them.
Hosting a World Cup in just a few years is going to take a massive infrastructure upgrade and a marshaling of Brazilian HR services. At this point, it’s no secret that the organization and communication between the nation and the organization is lacking. In a telling interview earlier this year, Brazilian legend Pele spoke on the subject to ESPN Soccernet:
“Brazil is not ready. Not yet, it is not ready. With the team we have no problem, it is easy.
“The biggest problem, I think, is the organization, that is a big problem, so too is the communications. I am now working directly with the President of Brazil to get it working and she is doing her best to help out with the organization.”
Rio de Janeiro poses a unique problem for the nation’s leaders and organizing bodies; stadium construction is far behind schedule, transportation is a nightmare and sprawling favelas are just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of a smooth 2014 showing for Brazil.
The favelas represent a problem that every host nation has had to address when hosting any event on the global stage, be it the World Cup or the Olympics. The idea is to show the host nation at its best, and the drugs, gangs and violence of the favelas is likely to prevent tourists and football fans from spending the money to travel to an area where they are likely to be harmed. The same happened in China when they built a wall to keep journalists out of the impoverished shanty towns surrounding the Olympics villages and Atlanta where city officials drew a curtain over the dilapidated ghettos all around the stadiums.
Brazil has addressed the issue of favelas by sending 3,000 marines and armed police officers to Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Rio. Rather than strike, arrest and leave, the rugged teams are occupying the favela in the hopes that a protracted presence will pacify drug gangs. Other underground reports suggest that rather than pay for a security force in the favelas, they are simply being knocked down.
Transportation is another obstacle area. Brazil has sought out investors to help improve airports nationwide that are already bogged down in trying to keep up with increasing air traffic; the airport system can barely handle current needs, much less an influx of millions of football fans into the country. FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke is quoted as saying that it was a “nightmare” driving across cities and that it takes “half a day” to leave the airport.
The concern that Brazil will not even have the money to pay for the extensive spending necessary to “pacify” favelas, build stadiums and facilitate the largest sporting event on the planet is not an uncommon one. Offices on the regional, national and international level will have to pool every ounce of their resources together over the next two years to ensure a successful World Cup.
Despite all the sturm und drang, Brazilians feel optimistic about the impending Cup, if only for the chance to prove world dominance in the beautiful game once again.