Despite construction setbacks, World Cup officials in Brazil say they’ll be ready for June 12 opening ceremonies at the country’s newest stadium in Sao Paulo. (Photo Credit: Rueters)
By Andrew Squibley and Arthur P. Bushwhacker
SAO PAULO, June 12, 2014 (Rueters) – After years of construction delays and budget overruns, the World Cup kicks off in Brazil on Thursday under a cloud of discontent at home even as foreign fans pour in for the tournament, many dismayed and disgruntled by what they found awaiting them following difficult flights and delays at major airports.
“This place makes Sochi look like Club Med,” said one discontented English fan, referring to the unfinished Russian site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. “And they’ve got the summer Olympics coming here in 2016? Maybe the bloody idiots got their dates wrong and they thought they had two more years to get ready.”
Brazil’s national team hosts Croatia in the opening match at a newly — but only partially — built stadium in Sao Paulo whose cost and late delivery came to embody the troubled World Cup preparations. “Everyone loves Brazil and we’ll be ready — mostly,” said Brazil’s World Cup lead organizer, Ricardo Diniz. “Yes, sure. We may be short of working bathrooms and several thousand seats but most of the dirt (on the pitch) is covered, if not by grass then by glass. Ha. I’m only kidding about the glass. Brazilians are big jokers.”
Brazil is seen by many fans around the world as the spiritual home of soccer and hundreds of thousands will descend on the country for the month-long tournament, but until now the enthusiasm among Brazilians has been muted. “Of course we’re not excited,” said French ex-pat Luc Gosselin who has lived in Rio de Janeiro since the 1990s. “How do the organizers or the government expect native Brazilians to get to the games?
“Have you seen where they are,” Gosselin asked. “Brasilia. Cuiaba. Manaus. Manaus? You have any idea how far that is? That’s like telling the bloody English to fly to Moscow for a home match! Teddy Roosevelt sailed along the River of Doubt to get to Manaus. The River of Doubt, get it? You’d think the Brazilians would have learned something from trying to get to that Godforsaken place. They may as well have built a stadium on the mountain overlooking Uba-Tuba.”
Groundskeeper adds finishing touches to pitch at World Cup venue outside Manaus near Amazon River in northern Brazil. England is to face off June 14 with Italy in much anticipated first match in so-called “Group of Mesothelioma.” (Photo Credit: Rueters)
Many are angry over the $11.3 billion spent on hosting the World Cup when basic social services are poorly financed, said one group of protestors. But most World Cup and government leaders told Rueters they didn’t let the protests bother them. “The poor and the miserable were here before the World Cup and will be here long after the tournament and the Summer Games in two years. As long as they stay in their slums, no one will mind too much and we should all have a great time,” said a spokesman for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazilian soccer fans insist the country will stop its collective whining about ignoring the poor and get behind its national team, favored to capture its sixth Cup, once the matches begin. Brazil and Croatia start the action this afternoon in Sao Paulo.
Brazil’s renowned Copacabana Beach will be venue for key World Cup games starting when former Cup winner Argentina faces off against longtime bitter rival Bosnia-Herzogovina. Tournament officials claim they saved upwards of $250 million by not building a stadium in the country’s largest city. The money was used instead to construct another monstrous Rio slum. Seating for the matches is virtually nonexistent, but free. (Photo Credit: Rueters)