LONDON: Brazil will not be the finished article when it hosts the 2014 World Cup but the vast Latin American country will cope with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the tournament, its sports minister said on Tuesday.
In London for the Olympics, minister Aldo Rebelo said he was talking to sponsors and local organisers to ensure that Brazil's poor and indigenous people were not locked out of the World Cup in a country that has won the tournament a record five times.
Brazil faces the daunting prospect of staging the biggest two events in world sport within two years - with Rio de Janeiro hosting the Olympics in 2016.
“We are going to do everything to ensure that the people who are coming to the World Cup are going to have the guarantee of security, of comfort of mobility within those 12 host cities,”
Rebelo, speaking through an interpreter, told Reuters.
“Some of the infrastructure will not be completely ready because it is an ongoing process. We are continuing to build the country,” he added.
A report from Rebelo's ministry published in May said 41 of 101 projects linked to the World Cup had not left the drawing board. That fuelled concerns about whether airports, roads and other transit schemes would be able to cope with the crowds.
Rebelo said French company Accor was investing $2.5 billion in building hotels in Brazil by 2015, adding there should be room for all the fans from home and abroad wanting to get see rooms in host cities.
Rebelo, a Communist who took office last year, said a recent environment summit in Rio showed the city could cope with large-scale events.
PLACES FOR THE POOR
Brazil, despite its emergence as an economic power, remains a country where there is a vast gap between rich and poor.
Rebelo said it was vital that the country's diverse population got access to World Cup matches, rather than tickets being monopolised by the middle classes and corporate clients.
“I have already placed this issue, with the organisers, with the sponsors, so that a suitable solution can be found so that these people can indeed have access to the stadia,” he said.
“In other words, the poorer parts of the population also have to be participating in this big party. They cannot be excluded from the banquet which the football World Cup is going to be.”
Rebelo dismissed criticism that some of the venues would become white elephants once the tournament was over because they are in cities without major teams to fill them.
“The stadia are not going to be used only for the World Cup,” he said. “Most of the new stadia being built are multi-purpose so that the site will be used for other events.”
He drew a parallel with Wembley, the home of the English soccer team and venue for annual cup finals.
“In London, you have a very good example, the beautiful Wembley Stadium that does not have that many football matches during the year but makes its living out of events.”