Brazil on the ball for new stadiums

2014-05-11 15:00

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Last Thursday, Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, was expected at the official opening ceremony of Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao Stadium at 2pm.

Construction workers, local authorities and reporters were waiting. A golden helmet with her name engraved on it was ready for a photo?opportunity.

In the end, Rousseff turned up more than two hours late. At the last minute, she decided to make a detour in her schedule.

An appointment was hastily arranged with the leaders of a movement in favour of housing for the homeless, who had earlier in the day marched through the city, causing chaos.

Strategically, the route included the offices of some of the companies that built the stadium, where the opening match between Brazil and Croatia will be played on June 12.

The president promised to look into their demands and the tense situation was defused – at least temporarily.

As the country gets ready for the tournament, Brazilian authorities must have an eye on preparations and another on the street, as Rousseff’s gesture symbolises.

As happened in South Africa four years ago, all sorts of pressure groups are seizing the opportunity to try to advance their causes: besides housing, they demand better transport, safety and health, less corruption and public money that is better spent – not on huge stadiums, for example.

There’s a big risk of violence if one looks at the many times peaceful demonstrations by thousands ended in vandalism by a few dozen since the last wave of protest broke out exactly one year ago.

The biggest question now is how the population will behave.?Last year, the urban middle classes joined in, asking for better public services. If that does not happen again, it is likely incidents will be few and isolated.

And that is where A Seleção comes in. It is conventional wisdom that if the team performs well, the talk will be more game and tactics, and less politics and protest.

The list announced on Wednesday was generally well received, with few surprises. The country stopped to watch coach Luiz Felipe Scolari announce his squad, which comprises 23 names of mostly young and inexperienced players.

The dream scenario for President Rousseff is that moments such as these, when the country pays attention exclusively to what happens on the field, will dictate the tone of the monthlong tournament.

But as her improvised meeting with the demonstrators last week shows, she is not taking any chances.

»?On Thursday, yet another worker lost his life while working on the new Arena Pantanal stadium in Brazil’s western city of Cuiaba. This brings the number of fatalities of workers on World Cup stadium sites to eight.

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