Brazil in last-minute rush to be ready for World Cup

Wed Jun 4, 2014 12:09pm EDT
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By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - With just over a week to go before the World Cup kicks off, Brazil is racing to get its stadiums, airports, roads and phone networks ready before hundreds of thousands of soccer fans descend on the country.

Airports in nearly all 12 host cities are swarmed with construction workers laying parking lots, installing check-in counters and kicking up clouds of dust with long-delayed expansions.

Workers at several stadiums are still struggling to set up cell phone networks that can withstand tens of thousands of smartphones. Temporary bleachers in Sao Paulo's stadium, which will host the opening game on June 12, have still not been tested under the full weight of fans.

After more than 13 years of intermittent construction, trains are finally making test runs on a metro that will deliver ticket holders to the stadium in the northeastern city of Salvador.

Only about half the projects promised for the World Cup have been delivered and many of those are only partly done, souring the mood in a country obsessed with soccer but increasingly skeptical about the benefits of hosting the show.

The late rush means most of the critical infrastructure will be in place and few doubt that the first World Cup in Brazil since 1950 will be one to remember.

President Dilma Rousseff promises Brazil will be fully ready on time even as she recognizes delays with some big projects.

"Nobody does a (subway) in two years. Well, maybe China," she said with a smile during a meeting with foreign journalists on Tuesday night, calling delays "the cost of our democracy."   Continued...

Labourers work at Manaus airport in Manaus June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly