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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Brazil has launched a bid to host the 2014 World Cup

This week's column is based on an excellent question sent in by Jeremy Bulmer of Leeds.

He asked: "After the recent tragic plane crash at Sao Paulo do you believe that more questions will arise about the safety and suitability of Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup?

"Spectators will have to contend with dangerous internal flights, coupled with non-existent, yet long promised, transport links within the major cities."

In response I would have to say that, although there are clearly significant differences in the scale and type of event, some observations can be made from the Pan-American Games, which Rio de Janeiro has been staging over the last two weeks.

The Games have given Brazil valuable organisational experience, and have also left the legacy of a new stadium, named after former Fifa president Joao Havelange.

True, the destiny of the stadium now the Games are over is not yet clear, and it perhaps suffers from being something of a compromise between the needs of football and athletics.

But in many respects its design is light years ahead of most Brazilian grounds, especially in terms of sight lines and spectator comfort.

Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium
The Maracana stadium is the jewel in Brazil's sporting crown

I'm sitting in the stadium as I write, and on a day of cold Manchester style driving rain the majority of the crowd are lucky enough to be under cover.

If the Pan-American Games can produce something like this, it is obvious that staging a World Cup could leave behind an entire national network of modern stadiums ready to drag Brazilian football into the 21st century and create plenty of jobs along the way.

It is hard, though, to get away from that word 'but' - and the Pan-American Games help explain why.

On the whole the Games seem to have gone well, and have engendered that refreshing 'special event' feel in Rio.

But, as Jeremy hinted in his question, Rio's inhabitants will not benefit from much-needed improvements to the transport network that were promised when the city was chosen to host the event.

New underground lines were to be built. An above the surface metro system was to link strategic points in the city.

All of it announced with a peacock strut, none of it got off the paper.

Patch-up improvisation was - just about - good enough to make Rio's transport system workable for the Pan.

But it clearly would not be good enough to cope with an Olympic Games - and a World Cup has the extra complication of requiring national as well as big city solutions.

Does Brazil's government specialise in empty promises and self proclamation, or can they get to grips with the basics of transport infra-structure?

The accident in Sao Paulo - when a plane ploughed off the runway and crashed into a building - is inherently connected with Brazil's failure to address the issue of mass transport.

The tragedy took place at Congonhas airport, which specialists have long pointed out is a disaster waiting to happen.

Congonhas is in a built up area, and has a relatively short runway, making the margin for error dangerously small, especially in wet conditions.

But its location meant that it was being used far more than it should have been.

Sao Paulo's principal airport, Guarulhos, is on the outskirts of the city.

With no mass transport link-ups, chaotic traffic in the giant city add time on to the journey into the centre.

So pushing as many flights as possible into Congonhas seemed a convenient solution for everyone - until tragedy struck.

With Brazil's air traffic control system already in chaos, thousands have been switching to the roads.

But there is little comfort here. Poor maintenance is one of the factors behind a death toll on Brazil's roads equivalent to an air disaster a day.

All of this is the consequence of decades of mismanagement, of the decision to prioritise the car, to run down the rail network and so on - options taken long before the current administrators were in power.

But it is up to them to do something about it. Do they specialise in empty promises and self proclamation, or can they get to grips with the basics of transport infra-structure?

Jeremy Bulmer's doubts are justified. And with much more than the 2014 World Cup at stake, the time has come for the Brazilian state to show that it can be as efficient as some of its athletes.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

I watched my first Copa America proper this year and can honestly say I was enthralled. It got me wondering that if the likes of Japan can get an invite, and possibly in future the old colonial rulers Portugal & Spain then why not the English.
James Vernon

I hadn't thought about this, but on reflection I think it's a wonderful idea.

The English (with a considerable Scottish contribution as well) were the founding force behind South American football, so I think it makes perfect sense for a participation in the tournament now that two teams from outside the continent are routinely invited.

We're coming up to the centenary of the Copa America (the first one was in 1916), so, by way of commemoration, an invite to the 2015 version might be a nice idea.

The Football Association has been working in collaboration with the South American Federation, so perhaps the ball is in their court to push for inclusion.

Javier Zanetti played admirably in the Copa America. Was it a shock that he was not used in the World Cup 2006? Also, he is part of the old guard so do you think that the other 'veteran' players will follow Roberto Ayala into retirement? And what about the potential replacements?
Johnny Binder

I like to stick up for Jose Pekerman (Argentina's World Cup coach), but the decision not to take Zanetti to Germany looks even worse in hindsight than it did at the time.

The idea that he's a disruptive influence is clearly nonsense - he would hardly have stayed so long at Inter Milan if this was the case.

He made a point of not retiring from international football after the Copa America, but it will be asking a lot for him to get up and down the flank in South Africa at almost 37.

Perhaps Pablo Zabaleta of Espanyol will come through as a replacement.

Striker Hernan Crespo will be 35 in 2010, so options are obviously needed up front as well - Gonzalo Higuain's progress with Real Madrid will be followed closely.

Brazil hopes for Rio Games boost
30 Jul 07 |  Americas
Brazil jet 'too fast on runway'
19 Jul 07 |  Americas
Brazil set to host 2014 World Cup
13 Apr 07 |  Internationals
Pan American Games open in Brazil
14 Jul 07 |  Americas
Brazil launches slum reform drive
03 Jul 07 |  Americas
Tim Vickery column
16 Apr 07 |  Football


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