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SBD Global/March 5, 2014/International Football

With 100 Days Until Start Of World Cup, Brazil Still Facing Travel, Construction, Lodging Issues

World Cup mascot Fuleco the Armadillo waves during an Italian training sessions on Tuesday.
In 100 days, Brazil "will kick off the World Cup against Croatia in the gleaming new Arena de São Paulo," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Assuming the stadium "is finished in time." Amid "growing excitement" at the World Cup returning to the home of La Joga Bonito, there "is concern at the extent to which deadlines have been repeatedly missed before being torn up altogether." FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke: "I am not a World Cup specialist but I will say this has not been easy, for sure. I think things will work well but it is also true that whenever you receive something late it becomes a challenge to make it ready in time." Every major sporting event "has to face down doomsday predictions that typically reach a crescendo around 100 days out before being drowned out by sporting drama and emotion." But Brazil "faces a unique cocktail of unresolved issues" that have left FIFA President Sepp Blatter claiming that "he was praying to 'God or Allah' that nothing else goes wrong." The biggest outstanding concern "remains the readiness of four of the 12 stadiums." Aside from "the terrorism concerns that hang over any major sporting event," most of the debate has been over the extent to which protests that saw more than 1 million take to the streets during the Confederations Cup "will reignite" (GUARDIAN, 3/3). REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported Blatter said on Tuesday that problems with Brazil's World Cup venues "are under control." Blatter: "One hundred days; It's a long way to go, and it's a short way to go if there are still problems. But now all problems are under control and it will be in 100 days an exceptional good start for an exceptional competition" (REUTERS, 3/4).

GETTING AROUND: In London, James Young reported Brazil "has given the world a lesson in how not to prepare for a World Cup," with many of the key infrastructure programs, which were supposed to be the tournament’s long-term legacy to the nation, "abandoned in the mad dash to be ready for kick-off." While the stadium-building process "is at least limping towards the finishing line, infrastructure works are in a considerably more precarious state." In a country larger than the contiguous U.S., air travel "will be the only way to get around between more distant venues, and Brazil’s airports, bursting at the seams to begin with, are a worry." Four of the country’s key airports "already operate above their planned capacity -- even without taking into account the extra traffic generated by the World Cup." As of last month, only 45% of building work at Confins airport in Belo Horizonte, where England will play its final and potentially decisive group game against Costa Rica, "had been completed, and at present the airport resembles a massive building site" (INDEPENDENT, 3/4).

LODGING, TICKETS AND MORE: Also in London, Donna Bowater reported tourism authorities "have been promoting alternative accommodation as hotels fill up in host cities." In Manaus, extra beds "will be available on boats and in jungle lodges" with just 1,700 beds available in hotels in the city. Tourism Minister Gaston Vieira said, “We want to stimulate the market to offer suitable accommodation for different profiles of tourists that the World Cup attracts without damaging traditional accommodation.” England’s first group match against Italy "is among the games that have sold out." FIFA has received 3.5 million ticket requests in total. The U.S. against Portugal in Manaus "has also sold out." Less than 160,000 tickets remain for the final sales phase after 1.5 million tickets were sold in several lottery and first-come-first-served phases. Valcke: "We have a very high demand for tickets." Brazilian authorities have confirmed that 150,000 police and troops "will be deployed" to secure the World Cup "amid fears that violent protests will resurface during the tournament." As well as police and armed forces, 20,000 private security staff "will also be trained to work inside stadiums and at World Cup venues." Andre Rodrigues of Brazil's Ministry of Justice said, “The federal government and the security forces have a lot of concerns which are not only the protests themselves.” The concern is "to prevent violent activities during protests" (TELEGRAPH, 3/4). Also in London, James Hider reported anarchist groups "have threatened to target the event and have organised demonstrations under the banner 'There will be no World Cup.'" Last month, a cameraman "was killed by a flare set off in violent clashes with police" in central Rio de Janeiro. A recent poll showed that support for the World Cup in Brazil had dropped from 79% in '08 to 52% (LONDON TIMES, 3/4).

FIGHTING MATCH-FIXING: In London, Ben Rumsby reported England’s players "will be given special briefings about what to do if they are targeted by match-fixers" during the World Cup. For the first time at football’s biggest tournament, players from all 32 competing nations will be given “integrity sessions” by FIFA officials, when they "will be told to report anything suspicious via a special anti-corruption hotline available only to players and referees." The threat posed to the World Cup by organized crime networks all over the world "is being taken so seriously by FIFA that it has put a raft of unprecedented measures in place." As well as integrity briefings, those measures will include "intelligence-led targeting of high-risk players, referees and fixtures." FIFA Head of Security Ralf Mutschke said, “We are also indicating the players, the teams and their histories in fixing and making a risk assessment.” All 64 games "will be monitored like never before," with security agents at each of the 12 World Cup venues and "forensic scrutiny of suspicious betting patterns, as well as social media" (TELEGRAPH, 3/3).
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