[WORLD CUP 2014] There's been lots of talk about how Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup have fallen behind schedule, but Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva insisted that FIFA will be "surprised" about the work underway when it turns its attention to the tournament in the fall.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke's remarks in May critical of the Brazilian effort drew a vigorous response from Silva in a teleconference with international media on Wednesday.
"These are the opinions of those who ignore the reality of the country," Silva said.
He added that FIFA will "see the reality close up" when it sets up shop in Brazil in the fall.
“I believe in the last months FIFA was focusing on the World Cup in South Africa," Silva said, "and we are waiting for a stronger, more active physical presence of FIFA in Brazil so we can, hand-in-hand, prepare for the World Cup."
Brazil's plans call for games to be played at stadiums in 12 cities, but plans to renovate the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo have been scrapped, leaving the commercial capital without a venue.
"Sao Paulo is the only bottleneck in preparing for 2014 World Cup," said Silva, "because the other 11 cities are preparing at a very good pace."
(FIFA hopes a stadium will be built in Pirituna, to the north of Sao Paulo.)
The massive investment in the Brazil 2014 World Cup effort is being positioned as a national modernization campaign.
“We will work in a timely and transparent manner to prepare Brazil for the World Cup and for the future,” said Minister Silva. “We are focusing on sustainable development, which will not only result in Brazil successfully hosting the 2014 matches, but also improve the country for the Brazilian people.”
The Brazil 2014 project is budgeted to cost $14.4 billion, including $6.5 billion on transportation infrastructure (roads and railway), $4.4 billion on stadiums, $3.1 billion on airports and $555 million hotels.
The 2014 World Cup will be followed by the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro two years later, so work in Rio will serve a duel purpose. The international media and broadcasting center built for the World Cup will also be used for the Olympics.
Silva said work has begun at six venues, including Manaus, Cuiaba and Natal, where new stadiums will be built.
Transportation and airports will be the biggest expenditures. Brazil will be the largest country to host the World Cup since the United States in 1994, and developing areas around venues and modernizing airports is critical.
The distance between Porto Alegre, the southern-most venue, and Fortaleza to the north and Manuas, in the Amazon, to the west, is more than 2,500 miles, about the same distance as from New York to Las Vegas.
FIFA and the Brazilian organizers will be able to agree on one thing: Time is of the essence.
The first big event is the World Cup 2014 qualifying draw, which will be held a year from Friday.
Yes, FIFA is moving up the event, normally held in December, to July 30, 2011, so confederations can begin qualifying in the fall.
World Cup 2014 Cities
Belo Horizonte (Mineirao, 70,000 capacity)
Brasilia (Estadio Nacional, 71,500 capacity)
Cuiaba (new-Arena Pantanal, 42,500 capacity)
Curitiba (Arena da Baixada, 41,375 capacity)
Fortaleza (Castelao, 66,700 capacity)
Manaus (new-Arena da Amazonia, 50,000 capacity)
Natal (new-Arena das Dunas, 45,000 capacity)
Porto Alegre (Estadio Beira-Rio, 62,000 capacity)
Recife (new-Cidade da Copa, 46,160 capacity)
Rio de Janeiro (Maracana, 90,000 capacity)
Salvador (Fonte Nova, 55,000 capacity)
Sao Paulo (?)