Brazil’s rocky road to the World Cup
Brazilians celebrated when their country was picked in 2007 to host the World Cup, but it has been a rough road to the tournament that starts Thursday in Sao Paulo.
Here is a chronology of seven years of preparations marred by delays, cost overruns and protests over the soaring bill to host the $11-billion cup:
- October 30, 2007: FIFA chooses Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup, 64 years after the country’s traumatic loss at home to Uruguay in the 1950 tournament. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) says Brazil will take its responsibility “as a nation to prove to the world that we have a growing, stable economy, that we are among countries that have gained stability.”
- March 2011: FIFA president Joseph Blatter voices concern about the pace of construction of stadiums, saying it is not progressing fast enough.
- March-April 2012: FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says Brazil needs a “kick up the backside” to move faster in its preparations. An aide to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff calls Valcke a “good-for-nothing” and her government tells FIFA it wants to deal with someone else. The row is settled after Blatter apologizes to the government.
- June 6, 2012: Brazil passes special World Cup legislation at FIFA’s request but without an amendment to allow beer to be sold at stadiums. One of FIFA’s main sponsors is US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser. Football’s governing body finally gets its way, with booze allowed in stadiums for the 2013 Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
- June 2013: Brazil hosts the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, but the tournament is overshadowed by huge protests that bring more than one million people to the streets. Demonstrations degenerate into violence between hardcore protestors and riot police. Brazilians voice outrage over the $11 billion cost of hosting the World Cup and demand more money for transport, schools and health care. Demonstrators chant “FIFA go home!” Brazil’s team, meanwhile, wins the Confederations Cup by crushing defending world champions Spain 3-0.
- December 9, 2013: Violence between fans at a decisive Brazilian first division game in the south of the country sparks outrage amid images of bloodied people. Twenty people are arrested. Newspaper headlines denounce the “savagery” and call it a “humiliation in the country of the World Cup.”
- December 31, 2013: Deadline day for Brazil to deliver the 12 host stadiums to FIFA. But half are not ready.
- May 21, 2014: Brazil finally begins handing over the stadiums to FIFA, though some are still unfinished. Workers are seen scrambling to finish up the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo days before Thursday’s opening game between Brazil and Croatia. Eight workers were killed during the work at the stadiums, including three at Corinthians.
- June 5, 2014: Sao Paulo subway workers launch a strike demanding better wages, paralyzing the business hub of 20 million people.
- June 9, 2014: Subway workers suspend their strike in Sao Paulo after five days but threaten to revive it during Thursday’s game.
- June 11, 2014: Protest groups announce plans to demonstrate in several cities when the cup opens on Thursday including in Sao Paulo, where Rousseff will host a dozen world leaders at the game.