In delay-plagued Brazil, World Cup airport welcome to include a tent

Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:25pm EST
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By Brad Haynes and Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil promised the world it would roll out the red carpet at 21st century airports for this year's World Cup, but soccer fans landing in Fortaleza, which will host six matches including a quarter final, will instead be shepherded through a temporary canvas structure.

The delays at Fortaleza are the latest embarrassing evidence that several crucial upgrades will not be ready when the tournament starts in mid-June. The deadline for a new airport terminal in Fortaleza has been pushed back to 2017.

"The provisional structure is not what we wanted, but it's what we have to resolve the problem in Fortaleza," Wellington Moreira Franco, Brazil's civil aviation secretary, told local media late on Monday.

Work on Brazil's chronically overcrowded airports is much further behind schedule than the construction of new stadiums, many of which have missed deadlines and run over budgets but should be ready for kickoff according to World Cup organizers.

The Sports Ministry reported in September that half of the airport renovations under way would be completed by May, but those time lines look unrealistic despite workers toiling around the clock in many cities.

The world will clearly be watching what happens. An estimated 600,000 foreigners are expected at the month-long World Cup, and 3 million Brazilians are expected to travel during the tournament.

In Fortaleza, where the six games being hosted will include Brazil's match against Mexico as well as a quarter final, the new terminal is one quarter finished and authorities have decided to break work into two phases, wrapping up in 2017.

Delays at airports in Salvador and Cuiaba have also forced officials to consider backup plans, although Moreira Franco has held back definitive judgment in those cases.   Continued...

General view of the extensive renovations at Sao Paulo International airport in Guarulhos September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker