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No time for festivities in Brazil
by Paul Kennedy, January 28th, 2013 6:57PM

TAGS:  brazil, fifa, world cup 2014

Monday was supposed to be a day of celebration for Brazil. It began the 500-day countdown until the 2014 World Cup starts.

Festivities promoting the event and demonstrating Brazil's readiness -- as it is -- to host the tournament were planned.

But they were called off due to the tragedy in the southern city of Santa Maria, where 233 people were killed in a nightclub fire early Sunday morning.

Many of those killed in the fire were college students, engineering and agronomy students who represented Brazil's future. Brazil has been one of the world's great economic success stories, joining Russia, India and China in the acronym BRIC for the world's new developing economic powers.

Brazil's economic success has brought upward mobility with the growth of a huge middle class and new spending habits. This is the first generation of middle-class Brazilians for whom carrying around -- and paying with -- credit cards is the norm.

But as Time's Tim Padgett reports, the clash between the new order and the old is believed to at the heart of the tragedy:

"[Because] so many club owners in developing countries like Brazil still live and think in the past, they continue to block the exits late at night—which survivors allege security guards were doing at Kiss as patrons tried to flee the fire, their bodies piling up at the obstructed door—to make sure customers don’t skip out on their tabs."

While emergency personnel continued the search for victims and police began their investigation -- there have already been three arrests -- FIFA and Brazilian officials were in northeastern Brazil Sunday for the opening of Fortaleza's Arena Castelao, the first of Brazil's 2014 World Cup stadiums to be completed, with a doubleheader in the Copa do Nordeste.

All the key officials -- FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke, Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian soccer confederation, Brazil's sports minister Aldo Rebelo and Ronaldo -- were in Fortaleza for the doubleheader that went ahead as scheduled.

Matches in the Gaucho state league in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the fire took place, were canceled.

"I am a father," said Valcke. "And on behalf of FIFA send my sympathy to the relatives of the victims. I can not imagine the pain they are now, it is not natural for a parent to bury a child."

Monday's ceremonies in Brasilia were canceled, and the launch event of the official World Cup poster will now be held on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.

"This is not the time for festivities," Rebelo said on Sunday.
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1 comment
  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: January 29, 2013 at 12:46 a.m.
    Tragic and sad. Very, very sad.

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