By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Last week, the Secretary-General of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Jerome Valcke, offered another warning to Brazil. During a visit to the 2010 World Cup sites in Johannesburg, the senior representative expressed the organization’s concern for significant delays in the Latin American country’s progress to prepare for the 2014 event.
Little less than a month remains until the first FIFA World Cup held on African soil begins, but many eyes are already on Brazilian business and government representatives to gear up for the competition’s 2014 edition.
Massive infrastructure improvements have been planned for the twelve cities, spread across all five regions in Brazil, that will host the global sporting event. Unfortunately, almost all projects are experiencing delays, substantial enough to seriously worry FIFA, and some wonder if they are regretting the choice of Brazil as host for the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA is surely well acquainted with the status of progress in Brazil. In Johannesburg, Secretary-General Velcke was quite peremptory while showing his strong concerns about Brazil’s inability to meet deadlines.
“This year’s presidential elections will slow down everything and then what? Do we have to wait for the 2011 carnival to be over in order to see the beginning of preparations?” Valcke harshly inquired during an interview at Soccer City Stadium in South Africa.
Only two of the host cities, namely Belo Horizonte and Curitiba, are on target. In contrast, for the 2006 World Cup edition, host-country Germany already had two fully operative World Cup stadiums by 2002.
In Salvador, Fortaleza, Recife and Cuiaba, the old stadiums have yet to be demolished. Although renovation of the Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro) and Morumbi (São Paulo) stadiums have already began, both projects are significantly behind schedule. It seems clear that significant focus by all financial players are needed at this point to get these projects back on track.
“The red-alert is on for Brazil,” said Valcke, who strongly critiqued the CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol– Brazilian Football Confederation) as well. During the press conference, the Secretary-General stated that he had questioned CBF President Ricardo Texeira about the deadlines. “I asked him why did CBF sign so many contracts if they weren’t going to be able to keep up with their promises,” explained Valcke.
Despite the negative conditions and the FIFA’s expressed disappointment, the Secretary-General stated that taking the 2014 World Cup away from Brazil is not a possibility. He did add, however, “We still need to see the country doing its best to keep up with the new schedule.”
After Valcke’s declarations, a veil of trepidation descended upon Brazil. Many recovery plans have been proposed, one of which considers excluding two cities from the list of the twelve hosts.
On Tuesday following the press conference, Texeira and COL (Comitê Organizador Local- Local Organizing Committee) jointly announced a temporary solution for the problem during the Jornal Nacional (National News) on TV Globo.
“All stadium projects must be proven to be financially sustainable before July 20th, 2010. After that date, the plans that haven’t been approved will be automatically rejected,” Texeira said, extending once again the deadline. The previous date had been set for May 3rd.