With just days to go before the World Cup opening ceremony in São Paulo, the venue for the event is still not completed. After a string of construction delays and the deaths of three workers on the site, the venue was only able to seat a 56 percent capacity crowd when it hosted a final test game on Sunday June 1, 2014. FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke took to Twitter to voice his frustration that the venue will not get a proper trial run before the June 12, 2014 opening event.
The São Paulo venue, the Arena Corinthians, is only one of several of the 12 Brazilian venues not yet finished. This is despite previous reports to the contrary and a December 31, 2013 deadline for the handover of all venues to FIFA. Across all building sites, eight workers have died during the construction phase, and the opening match arena had still not been fully cleared by firefighting authorities ahead of Sunday’s test game. Only 37,000 spectators made it into the site, despite a seating capacity of 65,000. FIFA is clearly worried about public safety during Cup matches, with Valcke tweeting, “It is vital for us that all facilities will be tested under full match conditions including the temporary seats & associated facilities.”
Despite many sections of the arena not getting a test run, the spectators’ chief concern seemed to be that Wi-Fi connectivity in the venue was too patchy. Organizers admit that a lot of aesthetic work still needs to be done as well, and hundreds of spectators missed the kick off due to inadequate crowd control outside the venue. Tiago Paes, committee operations manager for the venue, told the Daily Mail that “Traffic, metro, military police, everyone is getting better. By the semi-final for the World Cup they’ll be able to do it with their eyes closed as by then they’ll all know the stadium.” Cold comfort no doubt to FIFA.
Meanwhile, Arena Corinthians management say that final costs of building the venue will be in the vicinity of $417 million to $431 million, 14–18 percent over budget. And while Brazilians love their football, they have not been so pleased about the estimated $11 billion price tag of hosting the World Cup, money many say could have been put to better use fixing the education and public health systems and building infrastructure. Protests are promised throughout the month-long event.