Brazil is running out of time.
FIFA World Cup organisers mark 100 days to go on Tuesday with a lot of work still to be done on stadiums and infrastructure in the 12 host cities.
As national teams enter their final phase of preparations with a series of warm-up matches this week, the Brazilian government is trying to ensure the country will be ready to host the tournament in June.
Although Brazil has had nearly seven years to prepare, there are four stadiums still under construction and work outside many of the venues is far from completed.
Doubts also remain about whether the cities will be able to host the fanfests they promised years ago.
Airports likely won’t have all the work completed either, and many of the urban projects initially expected to be ready for the World Cup won’t be finalised until after the event.
Football’s governing body is publicly expressing confidence that everything will be ready despite the setbacks.
“Listen, 100 days, it’s a long way to go, and it’s a short way to go if there are still problems,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter. “But now all problems are under control and it will be, in 100 days, an exceptionally good start for an exceptional competition.”
Brazil promised all 12 stadiums would be ready by the end of last year, but only six were completed. Two may be ready less than a month before the World Cup, including the one hosting the opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
The Itaquerao is not expected to be ready before May 15, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.
That’s when they also believe the venue in the southern city of Curitiba will also be finalised. The stadium in the wetlands city of Cuiaba is almost done, but work outside the venue remains far from complete.
“Eight stadiums are ready and the ninth, in Manaus, will be delivered on Sunday,” Brazil deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes said. “The others will also be ready with enough time to be tested before the World Cup.”
Infrastructure work outside nearly every stadium is a big reason for concern.
Even in places where the stadium was finished, it’s common to find construction sites filled with workers rushing to finish footpaths, pave access roads, and install lighting posts.
Equipping a stadium to World Cup working standards requires 90 days, so FIFA and local organisers will have to start installing temporary structures needed for media and sponsors while construction work continues outside the venues.
“We have to work in conditions where the cement is not even dry (and) we already put things in place,” Valcke said.
“There is no criticism, there is just a challenge. For sure, the stadiums are beautiful. It will work and you will have what you expected.”
A recent poll showed the lowest support among Brazilians for hosting the World Cup. Many are frustrated with the billions spent to host the tournament, money they would rather see spent to improve hospitals, schools and infrastructure.
“We have learned a lot by hosting the World Cup,” Fernandes said. “And we will certainly take advantage of what we learned in other moments.”