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Brazilians Say Government Deserves a Good, Swift Kick for Broken World Cup Promises

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AP Wideworld
Brazilian 22-year-old superstar Neymar got the host country off to a strong start, scoring two goals in a 3-0 victory over Croatia in the opening match.
AP Wideworld
Protesters took to the streets of Sao Paolo in May to decry government ineptitude and FIFA's directives in the run-up to the World Cup.
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In 2007, when the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced that Brazil would sponsor the 2014 World Cup, the soccer-mad country was euphoric. That celebratory spirit degenerated into widespread protests throughout the country last year and again this month as the quadrennial event got under way. Although the pageantry of the opening ceremony and Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia in the tournament's first match followed the script that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA may have wanted for one of the world's most widely televised events, demonstrations in the streets outside the stadiums suggest the current of discontent is getting stronger.

Two years after Brazil was chosen to host the World Cup, municipal and state governments presented the federal government with a list of public-works projects for the sponsoring cities. After feasibility studies were conducted for the short-listed programs, federal funds began to flow to those same governments.

The plan was ambitious, and, at the beginning of 2010, it was transformed into the World Cup’s "Matrix of Responsibility." The ambitious program, earmarked at $11.16 billion, involved more than 50 jobsites spread all over the country. Work included soccer arenas as well as numerous urban infrastructure and transportation projects. In those heady early days, everyone was quick to jump on the bandwagon: the federal government as well as the district, state and municipal governments, controlled by different political parties. There would be enough largesse, the politicians promised supporters and opponents of Rousseff.

Now that the World Cup has begun, except for the football arenas, less than half the projects listed in the Matrix of Responsibility have been implemented. Critics say there is plenty of fault to go around, at all levels of government.

They point to the Brazilian authorities' historical ineptitude in planning complex projects with proper costs and schedules. Add to that an ample suppy of questionable bidding processes that delayed several projects, pushed several beyond cost estimates or terminated others. Since the previous World Cup ended in 2010 in South Africa, popular sentiment in Brazil has turned from feel-good optimism about the future to widespread despair over the lack of investments in transportation, health care, education and security.

The list of World Cup-related projects that fell short or failed covers, all told, nearly all the host cities. The subway in Salvador, Bahia, under construction since 2000, and the roads surrounding the stadium in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, were not completed in time for the tournament, as promised. The monorail line to connect Congonhas airport and the subway network in São Paulo also was not finished. In Manaus, Amazon, alleged bidding irregularities on monorail and bus rapid transit (BRT) projects halted construction months before the World Cup. In Brasília, the capital of Brazil, Federal District officials halted construction—before work even started—of a light-rail line between the airport and the city’s central bus terminal after delays resulting from irregularities in the bidding process.

In the middle of the whole process, the federal government tried to save face by fast-tracking infrastructure construction concessions to the private sector. Private companies met deadlines at three important airports: Guarulhos, in São Paulo; Viracopos, in Campinas; and Brasília. These projects worked out, but they represent a small portion of what were, as recently as two years ago, grand plans for transportation.

Stadiums

Most of the 12 World Cup stadiums built or remodeled for the World Cup came in well above projected cost estimates. The government has spent $3.58 billion on stadium construction, to date. Private investments expected from concessionaires or Brazilian football teams have yet to materialize.

Critics in Brazil say the so-called FIFA Standard, which puts items such as luxury boxes and television infrastructure ahead of local site conditions, has kicked construction costs well out of bounds.

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