Brazilians left wanting by flawed World Cup investments
By Paulo Prada
NATAL Brazil (Reuters) - When Brazil drafted plans to host the upcoming World Cup, this Atlantic beach destination was exactly the type of city it wanted to show off.
A nationwide economic boom was transforming the once-sleepy backwater into a fast-growing city typical of the new Brazil, a country at last poised to make its long-promised leap into the first world.
Who cares that Natal, in the historically poor northeast, lies far from the nerve centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo? Or that its stadium, home to middling regional teams, was hardly a venue for big-league soccer, let alone the world's most popular tournament?
Natal would build a state-of-the-art new arena, authorities said, and all manner of additional infrastructure, too. They promised a light rail network, a new hospital, a beachfront facelift and wheelchair-friendly sidewalks.
Five years later, and four weeks before kickoff, little besides the arena and a remote, untested airport are complete.
Almost half the more than $1.3 billion in promised developments never began. What did has languished, including ongoing road work that has rendered the stadium's outskirts a raw sprawl of rebar, dust and concrete.
"This is a missed opportunity," says Fernando Mineiro, a state assemblyman for the leftist Workers' Party, now in its 12th year in national power. "Natal failed to deliver."
Cities go after the World Cup, the Olympics and other events because the tourism, broadcast exposure and other revenues can justify infrastructure investments and other "legacy" benefits like those that famously remade Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics. Continued...