Natal's Dunes Arena will host four World Cup matches.
When Brazil won the rights to stage this year's World Cup in '07, it chose 12 cities to host matches -- three more than the World Cup in South Africa four years ago -- "in a bold step designed to spread the benefits to all parts of the country," according to Samantha Pearson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. But with just less than three weeks to go before the host takes on Croatia in the opening match, "analysts warn the plan is backfiring, threatening to create a league of 'white elephant' cities and jeopardising the tournament’s legacy." Many smaller host cities "are still unclear about how to make their stadiums financially viable after the month-long tournament, while large infrastructure projects remain unfinished or have been scrapped altogether." Rafael Alcadipani, a faculty member at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, an academic institution, said, “The idea of spreading the World Cup across Brazil was not a good one.” This approach, he said, has led to “unnecessary investments in cities and ... in forms of infrastructure that are not a priority in that particular city at that particular time.” For a start, many of the stadiums "are simply too big to be filled by supporters of the smaller cities’ lower-division teams" (FT, 5/25
). In London, Joe Leahy reported Brazilians "are showing little enthusiasm for the tournament that awaits." It is "not just a surge in strikes and protests that is giving this impression." The street buzz in Brazil that usually precedes a World Cup -- "the adorning of cars with flags and banners, the painting of walls and streets in the national green and gold -- is not much in evidence this year." There "are probably two reasons for Brazilians’ apparent ambivalence." The first is "anxiety that slapdash preparations for the World Cup will embarrass them before the planet." The second, and "more deep-rooted" explanation "concerns demographics." Brazil "has simply grown up." Brazilians "are older and busier than they were during the country’s World Cup triumphs of previous decades." That is "leaving them with less time to think about football" (FT, 5/25