Legendary football player and international ambassador for Brazilian sport – Pelé – has recently publically stated that he had several reservations with regards to how preparations are coming along for the Brazilian World Cup in 2014, commenting: ‘we still have problems with construction projects, communication systems and our airports’.  He went on highlight that many of the problems stemmed from internal political differences which have created bottlenecks on progress.  Shortly after this statement, FIFA – at the first executive meeting with organisers – also expressed some apprehension with regards to what has been achieved thus far.

Since the announcement in 2007, Brazil has looked forward to bringing what is a game particularly close to the hearts of the large majority of the population to the country – in addition to the associated economic benefits which are expected to last well beyond the event.  However, the statistics are clearly demonstrating the slow pace of targets being met.  Elton Fernandes from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil’s Premier Edition magazine, illustrated that out of 16 percent of total resources allocated for 2009 and 2010 – just 5.47 percent has actually been engaged to date, commenting that: ‘with the way things are at the moment, nothing is going to be ready for both the World Cup and the Olympics,’ continuing to criticise the nonchalance of the many public bodies involved.

FIFA President Joseph Blatter, whilst not being as overly negative, said the subject of most concern was the infrastructure of the 12 airports in the cities involved.  Delays in obtaining licensing for works to be commenced, largely prompted by Brazil’s well recognized slow bureaucratic system, has been one of the main issues being highlighted.   The World Cup is being viewed as an excellent opportunity for Brazil to free up its open sky policy and the country is currently in negotiation with the European Union and the USA – the latter of which, according to specialists, is well underway.  However such infrastructural delays are at risk of jeopardizing progress.   President of Metropolitan Paraná – Gil Polidoro – said that receiving credit has also been a major hassle for the state government, commenting on the Copo 2014 website: ‘the contract [for transport improvements] was signed in September 2010 and it is only now [March 2011] that we are receiving the granted finance.’

The 2011 Salvador (Bahia) Carnival festivities highlighted certain unresolved inefficiencies in the metropolitan region, particularly with regards to traffic control (several blockages were witnessed during the 5 day event which effectively halted access to the city).  Nevertheless, the central region’s improving security monitoring systems were commended with the increase presence of police and CCTV / GPS installations (crime levels were 16% lower when compared to 2010).  Problems related to technical issues have also become apparent, such as those that have been occurring in the Manaus (Amazonas) mono-rail system which has currently been halted to review the next stages.

Another issue highlighted by FIFA was the progress on the development of the stadiums.  The Itaquera in São Paulo, for example – which is looking likely to host the opening ceremony –  is due to be commenced being constructed in April with a loan by the BNDES (Brazil’s Development Bank) of R$ 400 million.  Yet the stadium has recently been instructed by FIFA to be extended from a 48,000 to 65,000 capacity and, as yet, no clear cut plans have been set with regards how this will be done despite state governor Geraldo Alckmin stating to the Globo newspaper that ‘all is moving well’.  Progress, nevertheless, has been viewed as a positive step considering the initial issues last year when original plans for the São Paulo matches in the Morumbi stadium had to be pulled due to owners being unable to present financial guarantees.

According to Richard Lucht in the Correio do Brasil magazine, from a general perspective: ‘there is a clear need to form a multidisciplinary group between the executive powers of Brazil, the judicial system and private contractors in order to ensure such problems can be resolved.’  Continued in the Premier Edition magazine, professor of air transport at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – Espírito Santo – comments with regards to learning from international experience and adopting a combination of private and public sector business models were supported by Elton Fernandes who suggested that the capital markets need to be used more vigoursly under the strict supervision of public institutions such as the Banco do Brasil and Petrobras.  In an interview with the construction magazine PINI in January 2011, president of the national syndicate for engineering and architectural companies José Roberto Bernasconi also called for considerably more private involvement stating that there is still time to turn around some of the major problems with the airports (the original video interview response can be viewed here in Portuguese).

Despite increasing public debate, Brazilian public leaders and policy makers (particularly INFRAERO, the public owned company for airport infrastructure) have been maintaining that programmes are still well underway and on target.  A number of measures are also being implemented to streamline and facilitate the processes behind getting contracts initiated for the various proposed works – such as the provisionary measure 510 (MP 510) that was announced at the start of March (which involves reforming the procedures behind the qualification phase so that decisions can be made quicker).  In January 2011, the Brazilian government also initiated legislation that FIFA related companies are to be exempt from certain tax obligations such as the industrialised products tax (IPI) and the imported goods tax with the intention of incentivising progress.