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Fifa may have scored own goal

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AFP

People gather to protest in Rio de Janeiro on May 14 over the upcoming World Cup's excessive price tag. Photo: Christophe Simon

BRAZIL hit the sporting jackpot when Fifa awarded the country the 2014 World Cup and the International Olympic Committee awarded Rio the world’s biggest sporting jamboree for 2016.

In 24 days, when the World Cup kicks off on June 12, Fifa could find they have scored an own goal, and that could in turn be the final nudge needed for the IOC to show Rio 2016 a red card.

Within the next month we will know whether Brazil’s gamble on back-to-back hosting of the two biggest sporting events in the world has backfired.

If the World Cup turns into a failure, as many predict, it will be too late for Fifa to do anything but play on until the final whistle.

For the IOC there is possibly still just enough time to hedge its bets, and that is probably why there are reports that London has secretly been asked if the venues used in the 2012 games could be recommissioned for 2016. There is no way the IOC would ever admit to even contemplating such a move, and so predictably it maintains there is no plan B for the 2016 Games.

But IOC vice-president John Coates last month branded Brazil’s planning “the worst I have experienced”, and went on to say that “in many, many ways” Rio was further behind schedule than Athens was two years before the 2004 games.

Coates is certainly not the only critic of Brazil’s efforts, with concerns being raised by a host of sporting associations, including golf, tennis, rugby, sailing and rowing, as well as various IOC members and national Olympic committees.

This wave of concern led London’s Evening Standard to quote what it claims are “highly placed sources” saying London was being considered for an unprecedented 2012 and 2016 Olympics double.

According to the Standard, the source said: “At a comparable planning stage in 2004 Athens had done 40 percent of preparations on infrastructure, stadiums and so on. London had done 60 percent.

Brazil has done 10 percent – and they have just two years left. So the IOC is thinking, ‘What’s our plan B?’

“Obviously, the answer would be to come back to London. It’s very unlikely, but it would be the logical thing to do.”

Coates said the possibility of Rio 2016 being moved to London was a “non-starter and unfeasible”.

Earlier this month IOC executive director Gilbert Felli admitted construction work at the Deodoro Complex was running two years behind schedule. With just more than two years to go until Rio 2016, that means the organisers are already up against the deadline and further delays could prove fatal to their aspirations for a successful Games.

Felli was appointed by the IOC to monitor preparations and his first visit to Brazil yielded worrying concerns. He discovered construction had not even begun on the Deodoro Complex, where seven Olympic and three Paralympic sports will be held in 2016.

For the world’s football fans the news is not that much more encouraging. With less than a month to go before the World Cup kicks off, there are worrying delays in preparations for the world’s biggest single-sport event; the promised transport systems are reported to be non-existent in some cases; infrastructure work in some of the 12 host cities is not expected to be completed in time; Brazilians are protesting about the mushrooming costs and rampant corruption; and there are security concerns.

As the countdown clock clicked past one month to go, four of the 12 stadiums were still not ready, with the venue for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo only due for its first full capacity test later today.

The 12 World Cup stadiums were supposed to be handed over to Fifa in December, but only six were ready on time.

At the beginning of last week, with just 30 days to go, Fifa had control of another three stadiums, although work is still progressing on some of the temporary facilities.

 

“We’ve been through hell,” Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said as he reflected on the campaign to press Brazilian officials to speed up construction.

“We’re supporting Brazil to ensure that it’s a success, because the whole of Fifa is based around the success of the World Cup,” Valcke added.

“If the World Cup is a failure then we, Fifa, are in trouble.”

And, surprisingly for the soccer-crazy nation, not all Brazilians are supportive of the country’s efforts.

Brazil, with superstars like Neymar, Thiago Silva and Oscar in their line-up, are looking for a record sixth World Cup title, but their local support may turn out to be not quite as passionate as the world expects.

The estimated $11 billion (R110bn) Brazil is spending on the tournament has angered many, and protesters would rather the money was used on solving problems with the under-funded health and public services, poor transport and violent crime.

About 150 000 police and soldiers and about 20 000 private security officers will be deployed across the venues to counter protesters whose slogan is “the Cup will not take place”. Just as South Africa struggled to reassure potential spectators the country was safe before hosting a successful World Cup four years ago, the Brazilian authorities insist the possibility of travel problems, protests and violent crime should not be a deterrent to the 600 000 foreign fans expected to travel to the World Cup.

For now, Fifa and the IOC can only wait and see what happens.

– Cape Argus


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