Will Brazil have its stadia ready for the World Cup?
Sky Sports reporter Geraint Hughes delves into the controversy surrounding the construction of World Cup stadia for Brazil 2014.
Last Updated: 04/12/13 5:02pm
The well-worn phrase "a race against time" applies perfectly when it comes to Brazil and their preparations for the World Cup next year.
The country is still trying to find answers to last week's horrific accident in Sao Paulo, where a construction crane fell over, killing two workers and damaging part of the stadium that will host the first match of the World Cup.
But delve a little deeper and Arena de Sao Paulo is not the only stadium a long way from completion.
The accident last week has significantly put back construction there, so FIFA will not be getting all 12 World Cup Stadia delivered to them any time soon.
Initially, FIFA set a deadline of delivering six stadia prior to the Confederations Cup, which took place last June and July and then the other six in late 2013.
Yes, six stadiums hosted Confederations Cup matches, but even then some of them felt as though the bubble wrap had just been removed and the dust not quite cleaned up.
I witnessed that first hand in Recife, a city on the north-east coast which saw Spain play Uruguay last June.
It was a great game and the atmosphere inside was cracking - but before the game the traffic getting to the ground was horrendous. Once inside the stadium itself, all the concrete walkways and stairwells were covered in dust and plastic sheeting was stacked up in corners - the workers had just not had the time to clean it all up.
During the Confederations Cup, FIFA altered their delivery expectations on the six remaining stadia.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA's general secretary, told Sky Sports News last June that rather than the Brazil 2014 organisers handing over the rest of the World Cup stadia to them in December of this year, a more realistic handover date was January 2014 (after Brazil's New Year festivities).
So why the fuss if FIFA will have at least 11 of the 12 stadia handed over to them by January when the World Cup doesn't begin until June? Well, FIFA and its partners has to do a lot of work outside the grounds, landscaping, preparing roads, assessing crowd control issues so that the venues can be granted safety certificates.
There are already huge concerns over the completion dates of the venues in Curitaba, Cuiaba, Manaus and Natal. At least two of those resemble nothing more than building sites and time really is running out.
The feeling of many people I met and spoke with last summer in Brazil was that everything will be ready by June, almost an 'it'll be alright on the night' attitude.
However, the readiness of the stadia is just one problem facing organisers of Brazil 2014. The country is also set to again witness mass protests by its people next year. Last June, the catalyst for the protests which affected many cities was a hike in the cost of bus fares in Sao Paulo.
It hid wider concerns which rapidly came to the forefront. On June 20, several million people poured onto the streets of Brazil's major cities - 500,000 people alone took to one street in Rio. It was bracketed as a 'middle class' revolt. Educated, relatively well-off people fed up with their government which they accused of corruption, neglect and of spending far too much money on the World Cup had had enough. The silent majority was letting their voice be heard.
Protestors said last June they were using the Confederations Cup to highlight their unhappiness, once that tournament had ended and the media and FIFA left, the same protestors promised that when they all came back in 2014 and in even greater numbers.
Brazil 2014 Organisers and FIFA voiced private concerns that the World Cup and football would be overshadowed by mass protests on the streets of Brazil's cities. The country is a very young democracy, it was a dictatorship until the mid-1980s and successive governments since have let the people down having promised much.
It appears that the focus that hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics brought to the country has angered vast swathes of the population, as public money gets earmarked for World Cup or Olympic projects at the expense of crumbling transport infrastructure, education and healthcare concerns.
On the flip side, irritation, annoyance and anger at the cost of staging the World Cup does get put to one side in Brazil. Football does this. Football has already done this. For 90 minutes on the 30th June earlier this year, Brazil thrashed Spain to win the final of the Confederations Cup. No one protested then. They did before and after, but not while Brazil are playing.
The people take huge pride in the success of their football team. To say football is like a religion in Brazil is, I'm afraid to say, a hackneyed cliché... but I can't think of a better way of describing what the game means to the Brazilian population.
FIFA has encountered problems before in staging World Cup tournaments, I vividly recall Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke saying at a news conference in an hotel opposite Copacabana Beach in Rio last summer that the paint was often still wet on the opening day of previous World Cups.
They weren't being flippant or making a joke, just realistic that organising a World Cup is difficult and that the best laid plans often get shelved. With just over six months until the start of the World Cup, the current plans will doubtless be ripped up and re-written, but Brazil 2014 may well be the most challenging World Cup ever for its organisers.