Worrying images suggest Brazil isn’t ready for World Cup kick-off

The Rio Report

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Numerous concerning images have been posted ahead of the World Cup opening ceremony on Thursday amid claims that the Sao Paulo Stadium still does not meet British safety standards.

British stadium specialists have said that the safety of any new stadium must be tested “at or around 100 per cent” in order to be granted a license, to ensure that fans can be properly evacuated.

The Sao Paulo Stadium, which will host the opening game of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia, has reportedly not been tested by the tournament organisers at anywhere near full capacity.

The test event for the stadium took place without any spectators as Corinthians U17s played Corinthians U20s and the absence of supporters at such an occasion is at odds with FIFA’s own safety rules with risk assessment replicating a matchday experience.

Only last month, FIFA’s secretary general Jerome Valcke said: “It is vital that all facilities will be tested under full match conditions in the temporary sections and associated facilities.”

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Electricians and carpenters are reportedly still frantically trying to complete work in the media tribune ahead of the opening ceremony on Thursday, while walkways made from scaffolding continue to lie outside the stadium.

There has also been considerable alarm at the poor condition of playing surface at Amazonia Arena just days before England play Italy there on Saturday, with work still going on outside and inside the stadium.

Photos have emerged of the playing surface, which is noticeably dry and sandy and particularly bare around one of the goals, with large yellowing areas of turf.

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According to various newspaper reports, the rest of the stadium is not completely finished, with naked power cables dangling from the walls of the changing rooms and workers still applying a final coat of asphalt outside the ground.

Several security doors are also reportedly waiting to be fitted at the stadium where a construction worker died last year after falling from the roof.

In fairness to Brazil, it is certainly not the first host to have to deal with concern at stadiums not being ready until the last minute – the heralded Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was still famously being painted on the day of its first game.

The Athens Olympics in 2004 had to face constant criticism about the standard of key stadia right through the Games, while many other World Cups and major tournaments have come under scrutiny for tardy safety checks.

President Dilma Rousseff defended the cost of hosting the tournament, vowed to punish corruption and urged her compatriots to give visiting fans a warm welcome.

After a year of protests over the roughly £6.6 billion Brazil is spending to host the World Cup, Rousseff said in a televised address on Tuesday that investments in stadiums, airport terminals and other infrastructure would provide long-term benefits for the country.

"We did this, above all, for Brazilians," she said, repeating an argument she has put forth that the public works implemented for the tournament "won't leave in suitcases along with the tourists."

Because of the cloud of corruption that often hangs over FIFA, many Brazilians assume that the high costs of the tournament, and the delays and unfulfilled promises, are the result of wrongdoing.

Rousseff said the country is auditing all of the spending and promised to punish any corruption.

"If any irregularities are proven," she said, "those responsible will be punished."

Reminding Brazilians of the country's success on the football pitch, and the warm welcome its national team has received elsewhere, Rousseff urged her compatriots to be hospitable to foreign fans. "Let's return the generosity," she said.

So Brazil has many problems to contend with on the eve of the opening ceremony, but everyone must now have to hope that the stadia and facilities are perfectly ready and up to scratch in time.

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