Brazil sports minister promises “a great World Cup

Aldo Rebelo, a member of the country’s Communist Party, is addressing the Soccerex global football business seminar in Rio de Janeiro.

A powerful, even intimidating, public speaker, he certainly has the attention of all the delegates attending the annual gathering of football industry movers and shakers from around the world.

And Mr Rebelo’s message is loud and clear – Brazil is going to be ready for hosting the 2014 World Cup, and the tournament is going to be a great success.

It would take a brave man to question him.
‘Dealt with’

Only appointed sports minister last month, Mr Rebelo is now in charge of organising both Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio.

He replaced Orlando Silva, who resigned in the face of a corruption scandal. Mr Silva has strongly denied the allegations and continues to fight to clear his name.

Mr Rebelo has to oversee World Cup stadiums in 12 different sites

The new minister Mr Rebelo is universally acknowledged as one of the most honest politicians in Brazil. He is also renowned for getting things done.

With world football body Fifa warning again, earlier this month, that Brazil is behind schedule for 2014, Mr Rebelo’s appointment could be the country’s masterstroke.

He is certainly going to knock heads together, and make sure that the three layers of Brazilian government – federal, state and municipal – are all working together at the 12 host cities.

“Rest assured, Brazil will have a great World Cup, a great World Cup in the warmth it will bring to the event, and a great World Cup in terms of its organisation,” he says.

“Conflict or contradictions are natural in any human endeavour, but rest assured they will be dealt with by the federal government.”

It doesn’t sound like an idle threat.
Stadium delays

But is Fifa right to be concerned, and how much troubleshooting work does Mr Rebelo have on his hands?

With just more than two-and-a-half years until the opening 2014 World Cup match kicks off in Sao Paulo, Brazil is continuing to build six new stadiums and substantially renovate a similar number.
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Brazil will have to get all the stadiums built on time, it will be too embarrassing for them otherwise”
Paul Fletcher
Stadium expert

Rio’s famous Maracana stadium is in the later camp, and work is continuing to build a new lower tier all the way around the iconic bowl structure, and also on a new roof.

Costing 750m Brazilian real ($404m; £261m), Brazil is sparing no expense at the Maracana, and this sort of figure is replicated at the other 11 venues.

The trouble is that work at the Maracana started six months late. There then followed a series of strikes by stadium workers.

There was a similar delay in Sao Paulo caused by a long-running row over whether to build a new stadium or renovate the city’s current largest stadium, the Morumbi.

In the end, the Brazilian authorities decided to back the building of a new ground, the Itaquerao, which will also become the new stadium of club team Corinthians, one of the best-supported in Brazil.

The delay has meant that the site of the Itaquerao is currently little more than a building site, with the foundations only going down last month.

Although to be fair, it has already held a number of football games – the construction workers have been enjoying kick-abouts in their lunch breaks.
‘Legacy challenge’

Yet with representatives of the 12 host cities giving talks about their progress at the Soccerex gathering, each is sure they will be ready on time.

Marcia Lins, Secretary of State for Sport and Leisure at the Rio de Janeiro state government, says it is “crazy” to suggest the venues would not be ready for 2014.

“Our greatest challenge is not the delivery, or the funding, or the guarantees for the World Cup. We knew many things were required of us.

“We are sure it is going to work, and so I think the greatest challenge is the legacy.”

By legacy, Ms Lins means how the billions of reals that Brazil is investing in the stadiums and wider infrastructure improvements will benefit Brazilians for years and decades after 2014.

This is an opinion shared by Ney Campello, who is organising the World Cup preparations in the city of Salvador, where a new stadium is being built for 592m real.

With the stadium and other infrastructure work on schedule, he says creating a successful social and economic legacy from the World Cup is now the key issue.

“It is wrong to say that in three or four years all the problems in Brazil will be solved by the World Cup, but I think it is a good place to start,” says Mr Campello.

He cites the building of a new light rail system in Salvador, and renovation of both the city’s airport and passenger port.
‘Daughter’s wedding’

UK stadium expert Paul Fletcher, agrees that Brazil should complete the 12 stadiums on time, but expects it may come down to the wire.

Mr Fletcher, an ex-star player with Burnley FC in the 1970s and the club’s former chief executive, has advised on 30 stadium construction projects across the UK and continental Europe.

“Brazil will have to get all the stadiums built on time, it will be too embarrassing for them otherwise,” he says.

“But it is a bit like organising your daughter’s wedding – you spend a fortune in the final six months, and I’m sure that will be the case with Brazil and its stadiums – they’ll have to throw money at them towards the deadline.”

And Tony Martin, chairman of Soccerex, says he is also sure Brazil will be ready for the World Cup.

“In its own relaxed, yet inimitable, way Brazil will deliver on time the biggest spectacle of football the world has ever seen.”

Although how relaxed Brazil’s World Cup organisers are now Aldo Rebelo is in charge is perhaps a different matter.

 

Source: BBC News