Sport Football Uncertainty still clouds 2014 World Cup
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Uncertainty still clouds 2014 World Cup

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Just six months before 32 teams arrive for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and a week before the draw, the giant nation still has work to do to prepare 12 venues worthy of the occasion.

Wednesday’s fatal accident at the Sao Paulo Arena, scheduled to host the opening match on June 12 and five other games, have put back ongoing construction at the stadium.

And it is not clear whether the stadium can now make FIFA’s December 31 deadline – though the local organising committee insisted on Thursday that despite the delay the stadium will still host World Cup action.

The deaths of two construction workers – following fatal accidents at two other stadiums previously – was the last thing Brazil needed, with popular protests already expected at the estimated $US11 billion ($A12 billion) cost of staging the event.

Last June more than a million people took to the streets to slam the cost of the stadiums – largely borne by the taxpayer – as well as protest at government corruption.

Fresh protests are likely, but what is not clear is how big they will be, whether they will turn violent – as was the case during and after the Confederations event – and to what degree they might affect access to the stadiums.

Brazil promised to make a Herculean effort to reform creaking infrastructure – but has already conceded it will have to rein in some initial plans.

That means, for example, that renovations of airports in three venue cities – Rio, Belo Horizonte and Recife – will not be ready before a tournament where three million Brazilians and 600,000 foreign fans will criss-cross the country.

That has fuelled doubts as to whether the country’s airports can cope with demand.

Similar worries persist over accommodation capacity with the Amazonian host city of Cuiaba, which boasts a 43,000-capacity stadium, only possessing 13,000 hotel beds.

A further concern are exorbitant prices at hotels, many hiked fourfold for the World Cup, while airline fares have risen by as much as ten times.

The local organising committee and world football body FIFA have insisted throughout that the 12 stadiums, sharing out 64 matches in all, would be ready by December 31 at the latest with FIFA insisting “there is no Plan B.”

Organisers say there is no cause for alarm.

“We have total confidence in the 12 cities,” said local committee head Ricardo Trade.

Jose Roberto Bernasconi, chairman of Brazil’s architects and engineers’ union forecasts a delay of “a week, ten days, a month or more” at most after the fatal accident.

But the clock is swiftly running down with a week to go to the draw in Costa do Sauipe in the northeast.

Cuiaba’s stadium has neither seats nor pitch as yet while Curitiba had to drop its ambitious plan for a retractable roof and Manaus shelved an initial blueprint that featured solar panels.

With tens of thousands of fans following the bigger teams from one city to the next, many must plan travel carefully in a huge country the size of Western Europe as Brazil looks at adding temporary new air routes.

“How do you move 40,000 Americans from Manaus to Fortaleza? You need 200 planes,” muses Rio-based US academic and urban affairs expert Chris Gaffney, who is studying the effects of hosting the tournament on the host cities.

“But no Brazilian company can come up with 200 planes just like that.”

The Brazilian government is negotiating with airlines to introduce new routes between venues to ensure supply meets demand.

The government has also set up a committee to monitor soaring prices in an attempt to ensure fans are not fleeced.

“Prices in Brazil shock Europeans,” noted the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, amid complaints by English and German fan associations at World Cup packages hitting the $US10,000 ($A10,990) mark.

Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo insists “there will be a party atmosphere, not one of protest,” for the event running from June 12 to July 13.

On the pitch, and having whipped world champions Spain in the Confederations Cup, Brazil will be favoured to land their sixth title.

But off it, the country has to face the prospect of the event taking place against a backdrop of street protests as it welcomes the world to cities some of whose reputations for danger go before them.

Violence has dropped back recently in Rio following the police “pacification” of favelas or slum areas once in the hands of drug dealers.

Yet worries persist over theft in areas leading off some of the world’s most famous beaches, such as Rio’s Copacabana, as well as stories of police brutality and deathly shootouts in poor parts of town far removed from sporting razzamatazz.