By Mike Woitalla
The city of Rio de Janeiro has declared the Fourth of July a holiday. Not, of course, for the same reason it's a day off in the USA.
On Friday, Maracana Stadium hosts the first of the quarterfinals, France-Germany, and the city shuts down on games days to alleviate traffic and perhaps also to enable its residents to enjoy the World Cup. The post office and other government services are closed for the day. Hospitals will only accept emergency visits, and shopping malls near Maracana close one hour before the game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. local time.
The streets surrounding Maracana are blocked off at 5 a.m. on game day. No street parking is allowed after 5 p.m. the day before.
The estimates of how many German fans will be at the game in the stadium with a capacity of 74,738 ranges from 8,000 to 15,000. A French reporter estimates up to 8,000 Les Bleus fans could show up, but in Copacabana, there plenty of Germans fans but no French in sight on Thursday.
Fans in Rio have been buying tickets for $600 to $1,000. Face value is $165, $200 and $330 for the three categories. Mark from Manchester, England, sits on on the sidewalk by Ipanema beach with a sign indicating he wants to buy two tickets. Mark, who has been to the last few World Cups and is a self-described expert on big-event ticket scalping, is willing to pay no more than $500 for a ticket because he believes there will be a glut.
He figures only 30 to 50 percent of the tickets sold for the quarterfinal game were purchased by fans intending to attend. Most, he believes, were bought by scalpers.
“They think their tickets are bars of gold,” he says. “But the price they believe they can sell them for starts decreasing significantly for second-round games like this. First of all, there are not that many visiting fans for later round games and locals can’t afford crazy prices. There have been tickets scalped for less than face value at this World Cup.”
But two men from Chicago say they’ll pay $1,000 for France-Germany tickets. German fans are walking around Copacabana asking for tickets. Even if Mark is right -- that there are many tickets available -- the problem is figuring out where to find the scalpers.
“It’s tough to buy tickets because there’s no central place,” says a German fan. “In Germany [in 2006], we knew where all the scalpers were. In Berlin, they were at the Fan Mile.”
The Internet helps. Two fans went online after Germany clinched a spot in the Rio quarterfinal and found tickets on E-Bay for $700 apiece.
“We e-mailed with the seller,” he said. “He was German -- we could tell from the e-mail address. We met at a hotel and made the deal.”
Two other fans bought tickets for $650 from someone at a foreign consulate. Another pair paid $900 for tickets with a face value $165. They can enjoy the Copacabana -- watch beach soccer, futvolley, check out the elaborate sand castles -- without shopping.
Uwe Becker and his friends bought tickets through FIFA, predicting correctly that Germany would make it to Rio for the quarterfinal. Becker is a German policeman who works in the anti-hooligan department. Now he's on vacation. And he’s impressed with the Brazilian police after three weeks of going to games at this World Cup.
“In Germany, our approach is defensive,” he says. “We stay in the background and only show our faces when we need to intervene. Here it’s offensive – a show of force. But it’s the right approach for Brazil. In Salvador, for example, they were excellent. The paths to the stadium are very narrow, perfect for pickpockets, but the police was everywhere.”
Becker says, from what he has witnessed, fears that Brazil wouldn’t prepared to run a smooth World Cup were unfounded.
“It’s been excellent,” he says. “Security has been good. Transportation has been efficient. The southern Europeans … Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey – they could learn from the Brazilians.”
Brazilian police have also been investigating ticket scalping. Reselling tickets above face value is illegal in Brazil. The AP reports that 11 people were arrested for running a scalping operation that was raking in $455,000 per game and aiming to sell final tickets for $16,000.
At a Copacabana beachside bar where German fans are drinking beer and caipirinhas, one yells to another table, “Do you have extra tickets?”
“Not so loud!” says his companion.
But at the Copacabana, the police stand quietly along the sidewalk, not looking very interested in how people are trying to find a way into Maracana on the Fourth of July.