An announcement today was expected from FIFA that would have ultimately revoked Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Paraná state, as a host city for the 2014 World Cup. Instead, FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke has announced that it will, in fact, continue as a host city.
The original desired completion date for World Cup stadiums was December 31, 2013 — but half of the dozen stadiums failed to reach this target. Games are scheduled in Curitiba in less than four months from today, with a test match schedule for March. The stadium is said to be 91% complete — though only half of the pitch is covered in grass, the roof is not fully assembled, and a good majority of the stands are not installed.
Despite this, they have been given yet another reprieve from FIFA and are expected to continue construction at the “highest pace” possible. It’s worrisome to envision what such a pace might entail having already witnessed a half-dozen deaths resulting from poor work conditions on stadium construction around Brazil.
Just last week, Antonio Jose Pita Martins, a 55-year-old Portuguese national was killed while working on the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Amazonas state. The crane-related death was a reminder of November’s crane collapse in Sao Paolo, which claimed the lives of two stadium workers. The four deaths tallied in November were largely held accountable to the high demands of completing the stadium by the December deadline. One can only assume now that the pressure is even greater for Curitiba’s stadium workers.
President Dilma Rousseff has insisted that Brazil will be ready for the World Cup despite the delay in construction. She believes that stadiums are “relatively simple structures,” and won’t inhibit the countries ability to host the games successfully.
As if that opinion about stadiums hasn’t already been disproven by the fatalities stemming from construction, last summer over a million people protested the funding of the stadiums during a time when Brazil’s funding on public services were (and still are) severely lacking. This past weekend, another reported 15,000 people rioted in the federal capital Brasília around Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha and onwards to Rousseff’s state office in Palácio do Planalto. With this most recent announcement from FIFA, there could, unfortunately, be more of the same on the way.
VISUAL CONTEXT: THE COST OF THE 2014 WORLD CUP
The magnitude of bringing a tournament like the World Cup or the Olympics to any country is such that it’s nearly impossible to go without a problem. In London, the 2012 Summer Olympics were inundated with security concerns, like the Winter Olympics currently ongoing in Sochi, Russia; but neither had any construction-related deaths. To make matters worse, Brazil has had more time than most countries to prepare for the tournament — having won the bid late in 2007.
While they will likely not come anywhere close to that of Qatar, which has already taken the lives of some 500 workers over the past two years in preparation of the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf state, it has cast a dark shadow over what was supposed to be one of the most joyous moments in the countries’ history. One has to consider now if even a Brazilian triumph this summer would be enough to make it worth the heartbreak it took getting the games there.