Brazil's sports minister has
a message for those who doubt the country will be ready to host
the 2014 World Cup - take a look at Rio de Janeiro's famed
annual Carnival celebrations.
Every year, Rio's samba schools seemingly pull off a miracle
at the last minute when preparations appear hopelessly behind,
putting on a show to remember.
That is the Brazilian way of doing things, and with the
World Cup it will be no different, Sports Minister Aldo
Rebelo told Reuters.
"If you go to a samba school, probably a week before
Carnival, you won't believe that it will turn out such a
precise, harmonious and exact parade as happens in those
events," Rebelo said in an interview in Brasilia, referring to
the annual Carnival that draws more than two million tourists.
"Things always work out with the characteristics of Brazil,
which aren't those of the British and Germans, which perhaps
many would like us to copy," he added.
That might not sound very reassuring to officials at world football's governing body FIFA, who have repeatedly voiced
concerns about the pace of preparations for the World Cup.
Though most stadium projects appear on track, transportation
infrastructure - from airports to public transport - and hotels
remain woefully inadequate to accommodate the 600,000-plus
visitors Brazil's government is expecting for the tournament.
The culture clash between Brazil and FIFA was never more
evident than three weeks ago, when FIFA general secretary Jerome
Valcke said Brazilian organisers needed "a kick up the backside"
to ensure the country would be ready for the finals.
The comments caused an uproar in Brazil, prompting Rebelo to
say the government would no longer accept Valcke as FIFA's point
man for the event. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has personally
taken over dealings with Brazil, helping to ease tensions.
Asked about the episode, Rebelo said both sides had moved
on. "It was a gesture of bad manners that I condemned," he said.
Rebelo, the lone communist party member in President Dilma
Rousseff's cabinet, said the to-do list over the next two years,
while daunting, is achievable.
His priorities are to improve urban transport, complete
works to expand and refurbish airports and finish the
construction of 12 stadiums.
"When we hosted the World Cup in 1950, they also thought we
wouldn't manage to build Maracana and we built the biggest
stadium in the world in record time," he said, referring to the
famous stadium in Rio where Brazil suffered the trauma of losing
to Uruguay in a deciding game that was a final in all but name.
A report by a government auditor showed that by last month
funds had been released for only eight out of 47 urban transport
projects. None of the works to prepare ports to host cruise
ships to boost available hotel accommodation have begun yet.
Rebelo, a soft-spoken career politician who once sponsored
an ill-fated bill that sought to ban the use of foreign phrases
in Brazilian Portuguese, said works could still be accelerated
significantly if they were deemed to be well behind schedule.
Asked what was the most worrisome World Cup project, Rebelo
repeated a common joke in Brazil these days: the country's
"The national team, without a doubt, is the most complex
project," he said with a wry smile. "You don't create talents
Though packed with promising players like Santos striker
Neymar and playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, Brazil have not been
impressive so far under manager Mano Menezes.
The team's lacklustre performances are a major cause of
concern in a football-obsessed country that has won the World
Cup a record five times.
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