Brazil World Cup Infrastructure Worries

Jul 13, 2011

By Samantha Burns

The spotlight will be on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer (football) championship, but the games are already shining attention on preparation challenges. The biggest may well be Brazil’s lagging infrastructure development, which will be taxed by a large influx of visitors and fans. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) Secretary General Jerome Valcke put it bluntly—“We don't have stadiums, we don't have airports.”

Out of 18 cities that competed to host the World Cup, 12 cities throughout the country made the bid: Manaus, Fortaleza, Natal, Recife, Salvador de Bahia, Cuiabá, Brasília Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, and Porto Alegre. To prepare, the government plans nearly 50 projects, valued at $18.7 billion dollars.  Some 78 percent of them will be funded with public money, according to FIFA.  Grants are being directed toward transportation systems, stadiums, airports, and hotels.

The only locations that require brand-new stadiums are Natal, Recife and Salvador, the others will be renovated. The iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro is running behind schedule after the FIFA inspections found the 1950’s era facility unsafe. Two thirds of the stands have to be rebuilt, and a new roof is needed.  Construction on Itaquera Stadium in São Paulo, the anticipated site of the opening games, hasn’t even begun yet, prompting FIFA to delay its announcement on what city will host the opening game.

Beyond stadiums, the importance of airports in a country so vast can’t be understated. Surprisingly, development has not kept up with the increase in internal flights, let alone international arrivals. In the past five years, the number of internal flights has risen by an average of 16 million per year and is projected to keep growing. To meet the demand, the government has dedicated some US $3 billion toward improving 14 airports over the 2011-2014 period. Compare that to the $6.3 billion invested in renovating just one air terminal in the United States—Miami International, a project to be completed this year. So far, only two airports are on schedule.

Infrastructure development is long overdue. If Brazil manages to catch up and, on top of that, be prepared for the Cup, the rewards could be substantial, as the government estimates the games will generate some $104 billion in additional economic activity.  More than that, Brazil would be in good shape for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Samantha Burns is an intern scholar with the CSIS Americas Program.