Beset by problems, Brazil battles stereotypes

The Rio Report

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Earlier this month, FIFA felt compelled to withdraw an article about Brazil from its website. The piece, a series of tips for World Cup tourists published in the organisation’s weekly magazine, drew scorn from many in Brazil after being picked up on by the local press.

The criticisms were largely aimed at a passage on Brazil’s attitude to timekeeping (“When arranging to meet someone, nobody will expect you to be there at the exact time”) and the final epithet: “A Brazilian’s attitude to life can be summarised like this: relaxa e aproveita – relax and enjoy.”

You can understand why Brazilians – particularly those keen on portraying the country as a place of business rather than some 24-hour beach party venue – would take slight umbrage at that last point, laden as it is with easy stereotype. But really, there was very little to be offended by in the text. In fact, to the critical eye, most of its admonishments were gentle to the point of glibness.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that Brazil is feeling a little touchy about the way it is being portrayed. With the maelstrom of scrutiny over World Cup preparations showing no sign of abating, the country’s shortcomings have become global news as never before. And they might have assumed that FIFA, of all people, would refrain from sticking the toy knife in.

The latest cause for concern is the city of Porto Alegre. According to local officials, there is a possibility that the Beira-Rio stadium will not be ready in time for the tournament unless tax breaks for the construction of temporary structures around it are sanctioned.

“It’s a difficult situation,” said mayor José Fortunati. “If the project isn’t voted for, we won’t have the tournament in this city. There is no plan B, C or Z.” Giovanni Luigi, the president of Internacional, who own the stadium and are reluctant to foot the bill for construction, was similarly unequivocal: “There is a big risk that we will lose the World Cup in Rio Grande do Sul.”

This was a headache the organisers of the competition could have done without. On paper, Porto Alegre was one of the more bankable host cities, with two impressive stadiums (the shiny new Arena do Grêmio opened last year), passionate fans and fairly well developed infrastructure. The decision to renovate the Beira-Rio was not unanimously supported, but few expected too many hold-ups.

It is likely that the impasse will be bridged before the unthinkable happens, but reports in The Guardian this week suggest that the Estádio Mané Garrincha in Brasília has been put on standby just in case organisers are forced to cut one of the incomplete grounds. Aside from Porto Alegre, stadiums in Cuiába, São Paulo and Curitiba are still be to inaugurated – despite the official deadline having passed some time ago.

With the stadium situation already reflecting badly on all involved, FIFA and Brazil’s organising committee must now pick up the pace on the home straight. Officials will hope that another passage of the withdrawn text holds true in the coming three months. “In Brazil things are done last minute,” it read. “Everything will be all right, and ready in time. That even goes for the football stadiums.”

Jack Lang - @snap_kaka_pop

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