Brazil plays down airport problems as World Cup looms

2014-06-04 09:25
Sao Paulo - Brazil's government on Tuesday played down problems with its aging airports, many of which are being renovated even as the World Cup looms from next week.  

Brazil has been racing to transform creaking infrastructure ahead of the June 12-July 13 event.

But with many projects -- including several stadiums - running behind schedule, the government stressed the transport overhaul is being done with an eye to the long-term future, not the next month.

"The new objective is to have new airports for the country," said Aviation Minister Wellington Moreira Franco.

"I can assure you we are prepared" for the World Cup, he said in a radio broadcast while admitting, "it is clear we have problems."

But the minister insisted that Brazil could cope with the expected influx of soccer tourists - more than three million from across Brazil and another 600,000 from across the globe - in the weeks ahead.

"In Salvador (in the northeast), for example, we received some three million passengers for the Carnival, far more than for the Cup, and we served their needs well."

Earlier, Folha de Sao Paulo daily published an overview of the airports in the 12 World Cup host cities, all undergoing renovation just nine days before the Cup starts.

Sao Paulo is home to the country's largest international airport, where the third terminal planned to be ready in time for kickoff is only operating partially, forcing the older terminals to take the strain.

At Rio's Galeao airport renovations also remain unfinished.

Rio will host seven matches - including the final.

Confins airport serving the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte is also still in the throes of a major overhaul, and in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, an improvised tent terminal will greet those flying in.

Other northern venues, such as Natal and Recife, have work still ongoing. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has insisted the airports will cope with the World Cup flow.

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