Unfinished stadiums, outdated infrastructure - one year before kick off, preparations for the soccer World Cup in Brazil have fallen behind. But optimism and enthusiasm prevail.
Construction problems have been plaguing Brazil's World Cup organizers: six stadiums have been completed just in time for the dress rehearsal, the Confederations Cup that kicks off on June 15 in the national stadium in the capital Brasilia.
There have been delays everywhere and, even now, construction work continues at the many of the scheduled locations. Mountains of sand are still blocking some of the entrances to the stadium in Rio; in Recife, the access to the subway system is still under construction; the roads leading up to the stadium in Fortalezza are incomplete; and in Belo Horizonte the entrance areas haven't been cleared for wheelchair drivers.
Construction of the Arena de Sao Paolo, meanwhile, where the FIFA World Cup is to kick off on June 12 2014, was suspended due to a legal battle. Only after the intervention of FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke - who had threatened to withdraw Sao Paolo from the list of locations - were differences put aside and the adversaries spoke of a mere misunderstanding. Valcke then posted a message of confidence on Twitter: "Agreed with Andres Sanchez & Odebrecht CEO on Dec 2013 delivery of Arena Sao Paulo. SP will set a positive example."
Investment coming too late?
It is not only the construction of sports venues that has seen delays: Brazil's infrastructure is in need of urgent modernization. The roads are jammed with traffic and public transportation cannot cope with the day-to-day needs. "Public transportation has not been a priority for the government for decades, because only the poor relied on it," explained urbanization professor, Raquel Rolnik. She said an upgrade of the system was even more urgent in view of the World Cup and Olympic Games, which will see an estimated 28 million visitors flock to Brazil.
The government has recognized the problem and has earmarked 52 billion euros ($70 billion) in loans for private entrepreneurs to tackle the infrastructure project.
According to estimates from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), 70 billion euros will be invested into the construction of roads, rail and airports between 2013 and 2016. That is more than twice the amount that was invested during the previous three years.
Because that investment will likely come too late to improve the situation ahead of the World Cup, host cities are looking for short-term solutions, such as special bus lanes to the stadiums or plans to close schools and government offices on match days in order to reduce the traffic.
Infrastructure expert Rolnik believes that the football fans will not face serious problems. "Access to airports, hotels and the stadiums should not be a major problem," she said, but that again would mean making the situation worse for the cities' inhabitants who will find that their major travel routes to and from work will be blocked off, making their lives even more difficult.
No go areas
The bomb attack on the Boston Marathon has put the spotlight firmly on security problems at sports events.
The Brazilian government is investing 400 million euros into security measures. According to the World Cup security official Valdinho Caetano, the bulk of that money will go toward training security personnel and buying modern equipment.
"We have bomb detectors and sophisticated command centers equipped with state of the art surveillance technology, linking up cameras, helicopters and officers patrolling the streets," he said.
Brazil has recently bought 34 used anti-aircraft tanks from the German armed forces.
Brazil is also planning to set up a security network comprised of two national and twelve regional security centers, through which authorities will be able to monitor all of the World Cup venues. The idea is to protect football fans from violent hooligans, as well as from terrorist attacks.
The security drive is also intended to combat violent crime, such as rape or robberies, which are common occurrences in Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro. Caetano has an ambitious goal: "There will be no no-go areas for fans. We have a security concept for the entire country which will make it possible for tourists to move freely across the country," he told DW in an interview.
Any security concept for Rio de Janeiro will have to go well beyond safety for football fans. The city is also scheduled to host the World Youth Day 2013, which will attract young Catholics from around the world, as well as the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. Both events will have venues around the city. The situation in Rio is also unique because its notoriously unsafe favelas - poor slum areas - are not confined to the outskirts, but rather scattered throughout the city.
Rio is a special case
Five years ago the city government began to "pacify" the favelas through cooperation with the military to fight crime. Officers of the special Police Pacification Unit UPP have been working the armed forces to hunt down organized criminals, which often results in bloody gun battles with drug vendors. There have been noticeable improvements in security close to the city center and the glamorous beach areas of Ipanema and Copacabana. The UPP has also made inroads into the favelas on the city's fringes such as the Cidade de Deus, which became world famous through the movie "City of God."
The UPP concept seems to have paid off. Tourists who are accompanied by tour guides can now venture across town into areas which would previously have been off-limits to them.
However critics point out that the UPP has begun to turn a blind eye to drug dealing. The inhabitants of some favelas claim that the number of robberies and rapes has gone up since the drug mafia was forced to give up its monopoly on violence.
Until then, Brazil will have hosted a number of historic sports events. Despite all the skepticism there are few people who are not looking forward to the World Cup. Those who live in the twelve host cities are especially happy and proud to be at the center of world attention. And they are sure that their team will live up to the expectation of winning the sixth World Cup title.