The World Cup, held every four years at various sites around the globe, is the most watched sporting event in the world, a stage on which the top soccer players from 32 countries will showcase their considerable skills.  For better or worse, we’re now less than two months from the start of the 2014 World Cup, with matches to be played at 12 venues spread throughout Brazil.

I first wrote about the challenges facing Brazil as the host nation in my December 4, 2013 blog posting for ISLE. Unfortunately, nothing has happened in the interim to make me feel any better about the fact that Brazil simply isn’t ready for this event. The possibility of violent protests regarding social and economic issues is increasingly likely, and many analysts have expressed the concern that the country has mortgaged its future for a brief party. In a country where education is vastly underfunded and many areas are without basic sanitation measures, the substantial debt for funds expended for World Cup facilities and infrastructure will no doubt serve as a constant reminder to the average citizen of the danger of believing the promises of politicians.

As this is written, seven workers have died in stadium accidents in the rush to make the facilities ready for competition (an eighth worker died of a heart attack at a construction site). Three of the 12 sites are unfinished, and several others were completed only recently. Deadlines for construction on the competition sites imposed by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, were not met. In addition, it appears that promised infrastructure work will not be completed in time, yet the official word from event organizers would have us believe that Brazil is cutting it close but will have everything ready on time. This article is one of many that make the point that the biggest loser, regardless of who wins the actual World Cup, will be the people of Brazil who will have to dig out of the financial mess this event will cause for years to come.

Of particular concern is the fact that Brazil’s airports are simply not ready for the World Cup. In fact, Brazilian soccer legend Pele has expressed concerns that despite having seven years to prepare the airports for the World Cup, the necessary work has been completed at only two of the 13 major airports that will be used in the tournament. Brazil is a huge country, and efficient air travel between the World Cup venues will be essential. Unfortunately, it appears that air travel will be problematic for fans, teams and regular travelers.

For a deeper look at the challenges facing Brazil, from its “endemic corruption” to its “major infrastructure problems” please see this article.  One wonders how it all went so wrong. On the bright side, the competition will be wonderful. Group-stage contests will bring us heavyweight matchups such as England vs. Italy, Spain vs. Netherlands and Germany vs. Portugal. The USA landed in an unforgiving group, but hope springs eternal. Brazil is thus far the favorite to win the championship, and that would be a huge lift for the country before it has to dig in and face the unpleasant realities of paying the substantial bills for the party.

I hope I’m wrong and the World Cup runs smoothly. Articles like this do not give me much comfort.

I welcome your thoughts. Please contact me at mike.gilleran@gmail.com. Thanks.

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