Brazil, play hardball

June 11, 2014 - 12:07:42 am

The run-up to the World Cup hasn’t been smooth for Brazil. It needs to put in everything so that the show turns out to be spectacular. 

With a day to go for the World Cup in Brazil, it has been a nerve-wrecking journey for the South American nation. The 2014 World Cup preparations attracted a lot of media attention amid questions over whether the Samba country will be able to put up a great show in keeping with the tournament’s stature. 

Fans worldwide have been watching with some trepidation as the country has seen glitches in preparations for the greatest show on the planet. Brazil’s largest city of Sao Paulo, which will host the opening match tomorrow, has been in the throes of a strike by underground rail workers. Yesterday, the government and organisers got a break from haggling and anxious confrontations after employees called off the strike for talks. Brazilian troops have been using tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrations by striking employees of Sao Paulo’s transport lifeline. The agitating workers have been demanding a salary hike and talks were stalled over the percentage of the raise the parties agreed over. However, the suspension of the strike came with a rider — it could be resumed tomorrow — day one of the World Cup, if demands are not met. 

Arena de Sao Paulo, where the opening tie would be staged, is in the outskirts of the congested city and fans would find it hard to reach there with the underground system not working. 

In another setback, Rio de Janeiro subway employees threatened to go on strike today, demanding higher wages. 

The countdown to the World Cup has been full of problems for the soccer-crazy nation. Cost over-runs, construction delays and spats with Fifa have seen Brazil pass through a tumultuous period. The government has faced a backlash over the $11bn spent on preparations for the tournament. Citizens feel the sum could have been put to more productive use in a country where economic inequality is rampant and large shantytowns stare at highrises in big cities. Like any developing economy, social infrastructure is inadequate and hosting of a football World Cup is equated by many to squandering scarce resources. 

President Dilma Rousseff has been frequently criticised for project delays and other anomalies in the run up to the tournament. However, the former guerrilla fighter has taken on her critics by defending her government’s performance in preparing for the tournament. 

Going by the scale and nature of the event, the troubles and related criticism was expected. With a day to go for the show to begin, all eyes are now on Sao Paulo. Organisers of a tournament of this scale should take strikes, agitations and criticism in the right spirit. Instead of letting these affect timely preparations, Brazil should focus on holding the tournament in a way that would make the world sit up and notice.