Despite deep concerns, Brazil pulls off largely smooth World Cup

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(Richard Martin, USA TODAY Sports)RIO DE JANEIRO — It was the question the media loved to pose in the years leading up to the month-long tournament: Will Brazil be ready for the World Cup?The concerns were numerous: bottlenecks at airports, street crime, public transportation, stadium hazards, anti-government riots.Although there’s an intense weekend in Rio before the final kicks off Sunday afternoon, the scene here belies those fears and is instead one of fans who are able to preoccupy themselves with criticizing or praising their teams’ performances, since the Brazilian authorities’ performance during the event has been largely without the crises some predicted.GERMANY-ARGENTINA: Final puts Brazilians in tough spotBrazil deserves “credit where it is due,” said JP Connelly, an American who works with B.P. and who has lived in Brazil for three and a half years. In addition to four Rio games, he took his nine-year-old son to the Portugal-Ghana match in Brasília for his child’s birthday; they came and left the city on the same day, taking the direct $3.50 bus between the Brasília airport to the stadium.“It was absolutely so smooth. It was just like we were in the U.S. or Australia,” he said.In his industry, Connelly has seen what he called high levels of bureaucracy and “always an extra piece of red tape” to get work done in Brazil. But he said the Brazilian government seemed to rally the political will to pull off the event, for which many host cities declared holidays on game days and had security forces work overtime days. “Clearly, Brazil knew this was something it had to pull off,” he said.SEX INDUSTRY TAKES HIT: World Cup puts damper on Brazil prostitutionThe event had its accidents and casualties, both within and out of authorities’ control. Flooding on the eve of U.S. games in both Natal and Recife left authorities scrambling to keep locals safe in addition to the task of hosting games. Robberies at Fan Fests were frequent, as they are even on just a crowded Rio summer beach day. Argentine and Chilean fans broke into the Maracanã stadium on two occasions. An overpass about half an hour from the stadium in Belo Horizonte collapsed, killing two. On the day of the opening Argentina-Bosnia game in Rio de Janeiro, police fired live munitions at a small group of protesters.Before the tournament even began, eight construction workers lost their lives in accidents working on stadiums.Strikes in key sectors like public security and transportation rocked the country up until the eve of the tournament. Dramatic strikes, such as by the police in host cities Recife and Salvador or by the metro employees in São Paulo and bus workers in Rio, caused large delays and in some cases brought normal working life in those cities to a halt for days.FINAL: Title could be step to greatness for Messi or GermanyOne of the most frequent problems for fans was the logistics of getting to distant games in Brazil, the world’s fifth-largest country in area. The 12 host cities involved long and expensive travel — Manaus to Porto Alegre, for example, is nearly 2,000 miles.That meant the commonplace scene in front of the Maracanã stadium in Rio on game days was of fans frantically trying to buy scalped tickets; many complained that the demand for tickets in São Paulo and Rio exceeded supply and even said they gave up tickets in far-off host cities like the Amazonian capital Manaus.That was the case for Chris Woolson, 46, from San Francisco, who had tickets to all of the U.S. games, but stayed in Rio when he found out that the final match would be in Salvador and would cost an extra $1,000 in airfare, though the flight is only two hours.“I am really upset about how they took advantage of us,” he said of prices in Brazil.The tournament’s relative smoothness may be due in part to experience. This is the fourth international mega-event Rio has hosted since 2007, including the Pan-American Games of that year, the Rio+20 United Nations conference in 2012, and the Confederations Cup and World Youth Day visit of Pope Francis in 2013.Still, some of the event’s success may be due just to good luck for Brazilian authorities; street protests have been far smaller than they were a year ago, and potentially grave mishaps — such as a sniper who asked permission from his superior to shoot an armed person he thought presented a threat (actually a cop) near President Dilma Rousseff at the opening game — did not lead to worst case scenarios.Instead, what remains to be seen is if after the event, as Rousseff’s reelection in October nears, if Brazilians will sour over the public expenditures on the tournament and the perception that the government prioritized the mega-event over the day-to-day needs of citizens here.Despite early assurances from Brazilian officials that the stadiums would be constructed with private money, those stadiums ended up being paid almost exclusively with public funds. The federal government’s own comptroller’s office published a detailed account of expenditures on stadiums, which said that of the $3.5 billion spent on them, more than $3 billion came from public coffers.At the same time, mobility projects that would benefit the population at large, such as a train between Rio and São Paulo, never materialized or were reduced in scale.In an emblematic case, the metro of traffic-clogged Salvador — under construction for 14 years — began to work literally on the day of the first match in the city, with only four stations.“Brazilians had the onus without getting the bonus” from World Cup expenditures, said Gil Castello Branco, the secretary-general of Contas Abertas, an NGO which promotes government transparency.Connelly, the expat worker in Rio, said he saw that the tournament affected the lives of Brazilians in different ways. “I think it depends on where you sit on the social ladder,” he said, adding that colleagues from his industry often got tickets through their work and enjoyed the extra holidays, increased policing presence and attention to logistics.“It’s two worlds almost,” he added. “The average Brazilian – their beef is a legitimate one, where they say, ‘Why can’t we do this with transportation and security the whole year?’” Session ID: 2020-09-18:adffe48c148762492869647f Player ID: videojs-brightcove-player-92928-3667480974001 OK Close Modal DialogCaption Settings DialogBeginning of dialog window. 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