RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's overcrowded and
outdated airports could be an embarrassment for the country when
it stages the 2014 World Cup, the country's sports minister said
Orlando Silva warned that not enough progress was being made
in improving airports in the vast country which depends almost
exclusively on air transport for long-distance travel.
"Today, I have a very strong concern about our airports,"
Silva told reporters during the Soccerex conference.
"When we think about an event of this size and that Brazil
is almost a continent, and that you can only travel around by
plane, then we realise that this is the biggest risk for the
2014 World Cup."
Brazil has almost no long-distance passenger trains while
many main highways are in a dilapidated state.
Twelve cities will host matches, many of them thousands of
The longest distance between venues, Porto Alegre in the
south and Manaus in the Amazon region, is roughly 4,500
A recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey and Co said
that, at the end of 2009, seven of Brazil's 20 principal
airports were struggling with overcrowding in both passenger
areas and plane berths, frequently leading to delays or
The report said Brazil's airports had capacity for 126
million passengers per year, with existing demand of 111 million
that is expected to rise to 146 million by 2014.
During the Cup alone, McKinsey said as many as 6 million
additional travellers would pass through Brazilian airports.
The government expects to invest 6.5 billion reais ($3.8
billion) in airports by 2014, including about 5.5 billion reais
for those in the 12 host cities.
However, Silva said progress has not been quick enough and
criticised the government's airport authority Infraero.
"I think Infraero will have to change its conduct, behaviour
and attitude, otherwise Brazil could suffer embarrassing
situations in 2014," he said.
Brazil's airport safety conditions have improved since a
2007 crash that killed almost 200 people when a plane skidded
off a runway in Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport.
But critics say investments have still not kept up with
Passenger traffic jumped 28 percent in the first half of
2010 from a year earlier, according to Brazilian civil aviation
Brazil was chosen in 2007 to host the tournament which was
earmarked for South America by FIFA under a short-lived rotation
system which also brought this year's World Cup to Africa.
Airports are not the only worry with rampant crime and
social problems also a concern especially in the biggest cities.
On Sunday, armed criminals blocked one of the main highways
into Rio de Janeiro in broad daylight, robbed several cars and
then set the vehicles alight.
None of the victims were injured although one told Brazilian
television that the robbers fired shots at his car and he had to
flee into some trees by the roadside.
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