Brazil's World Cup readiness issues sparks skepticism

Dec. 4, 2013 at 7:35 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Brazil's readiness for next June's opening of FIFA World Cup tournament came under renewed scrutiny after senior officials from the international federation admitted delays at major sport venues.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is battling delays in infrastructural construction projects while fending off opposition criticism on government cost overruns and alleged imbalance in the allocation of millions of dollars toward World Cup planning.

More than a million Brazilians marched in June to protest what they called disproportionate spending on World Cup and Olympics projects. The protesters cited neglect of basic infrastructural development, including public transport, housing and wider distribution of civic amenities and utilities.

Peaceful marches deteriorated into riots and attacks on public property. Hundreds of protesters were arrested and an unspecified number face prosecution.

The World Cup project management came under fire again after two workers died in the crash of a crane at a construction site. Critics said the crane was improperly deployed on soft soil and pointed to the accident as an indicator of poor planning.

Rousseff has called in private business to run key airports that are likely to figure in the mass intake of tourists, players and their families beginning early next year. As the delays multiply, officials say more World Cup related projects may have to be farmed out to the private sector, including international contractors, to ensure their smooth operations. It's not clear if the private contracts are part of the original budget or if they'll push up costs, as widely anticipated.

Brazil embarked on the double bill of FIFA World Cup next year and the summer Olympics in 2016 amid surging optimism, fed by a boom in the country's earnings from commodities exports.

Those earnings have dropped and Brazil's economic growth is slowing, leading to criticism the country has taken on too much and may not be able to deliver on promises.

Brazil's agriculture sector took a major hit this year, causing a 0.5 percent drop in national earnings, third quarter data showed.

Rousseff and the Central Bank are contending with galloping inflation that analysts said will worsen as the state spending continues in preparations for the World Cup and the Olympics.

The Central Bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 10 percent from 9.5 percent, the sixth increase in a row. The rate stands at its highest level since March 2012. The rate rise pushed consumer prices upward, fueling consumer protests, and would likely increase costs on World Cup building works.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said not all Brazilian sport venues, including stadiums, could be ready by January as originally planned but hoped they'll be completed before the scheduled events in June.

Most of the 12 stadiums to be used in the World Cup tournaments aren't ready, Brazilian media reported.

FIFA admitted the backlog but announced Brazil would still meet the completion targets.

FIFA officials have been saying "extra resources" may have to be applied to get delayed construction projects ready for the events.

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