With 100 days to go before the World Cup starts, Brazil is in the home straight of the countdown and huffing and puffing to complete stadiums, airports, IT networks and public transportation systems.
Four of the 12 venues are still not ready and at least two will not be completed until at least April, two months before Brazil meet Croatia in the opening match on June 12. Authorities are also racing against the clock to finish airport terminals and transport systems and to clean up areas around the grounds.
Officials at soccer’s ruling body FIFA have expressed concern but can do little more than cross their fingers and hope everything is alright on the night.
“I am not a World Cup specialist but I will say this has not been easy for sure,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Zurich at the weekend.
“I think things will work well but it is also true that whenever you receive something late it becomes a challenge to make it ready in time.”
Valcke, the man charged with organising the tournament, prompted a diplomatic uproar in 2012 when he said Brazil needed “a kick up the backside”.
President Dilma Rousseff replied by vowing this would be “the World Cup to end all World Cups”, a slogan repeated by FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, but others say there are reasons for scepticism.
Two of the completed arenas have already shown signs of wear and tear, with part of the roof at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte falling off at the weekend. No one was hurt in the incident.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter reiterated that Brazil’s World Cup problems are under control as preparations entered the final lap.
“One hundred days, its a long way to go. Its a short way to go if there are still problems but now all problems are under control,” Blatter told FIFA.com.
Blatter said Brazil’s history as one of the most successful football nations meant the World Cup will be a triumph.
While England “invented” the sport, Brazil had “shown the world the way to play good football,” he added. “The Brazilian spirit of the game and the Brazilian ability to play football makes this World Cup very special.”