Passing Brazil's World Cup stadium gauntlet is no easy task
JUN 10, 2014 1:41p ET
SAO PAULO --
At Se station, one of the main interchanges on the Sao Paulo Metro, there are huge signs in the jaunty pale blue and yellow FIFA has chosen as the colors of the tournament, directing passengers to the red line east for Corinthians-Itaquero, for the World Cup stadium. So far, you think, so good: perhaps all the talk of Brazil’s preparations being behind has been scaremongering after all.
Then you get to Corinthinas-Itaquero. There’s an enormous sign pointing right. You follow it. There’s another sign pointing on and right. You follow that, although there doesn’t really seem to be an on and right. You find yourself in a shopping and cinema complex. You peer through the windows, but there doesn’t seem to be a stadium out there -- although it’s hard to see much through the thick drizzle. There are no more signs. You ask a security guard and he points back the way you’ve come. You’re baffled: it’s the opposite way to the signs. You wonder if he may think you said “station” rather than “stadium” so you repeat the question, but he’s adamant. A Japanese photographer whose been wandering in circles trying to get reception on his phone sees your bewilderment and grabs your arm. “Signs no good,” he says.
You go back the way you’ve come back through the station. There are no signs, just a long passageway in which half a dozen men in navy-blue overalls painting the roof yellow. You skirt them and see what looks like it might be the outer wall of a stadium in front of you. Do you go left or right? The drizzle is getting heavier. You see a load of vans at the top of the hill and reason they’re probably something to do with TV. You walk up the hill, getting soaked.
There are people everywhere, milling about in the rain, but none of them look official. Eventually you see a man in an official-looking blue coat. You approach him, and he snaps something you don’t understand that includes the word “acreditacao”. You agree with him that that’s what you’re looking for. He points you back the way you’ve come. A volunteer at last emerges from the gloom, a broken green umbrella keeping off some of the rain. She tries to explain where the accreditation center is, gives up and decides to walk with you. There is room for only one under the umbrella.
Outside the accreditation center you meet two BBC radio journalists and former England winger Chris Waddle. They are wet and bedraggled -- or at least the journalists are: Waddle has scraped his wet hair back so he looks vaguely vampiric. You go in. There is a smell of wet clothing everywhere. The process is relatively efficient. You come out with your badge and find the rain has stopped. The pavement is dotted with patches of setting concrete. There are no signs anywhere. The skeleton of a bridge crosses the road. For a moment you consider taking it, but it looks rickety in the extreme and the road isn’t busy. You dash across.
At last you see a sign pointing to the media entrance. You follow it. You keep going. The stadium appears to the right. You keep going. There are no more signs. But, now the rain has stopped, there are dozens of volunteers. They are charming and enthusiastic. They point you in the right direction. You loop around. You see a line of X-ray machines and deduce this is the media entrance. A stern man with a beard asks you if you have a “how-ter.” You look blank. He asks if you have a camera. You know that one: “No.” He asks if you have a microphone: “No.” You wonder what the point of the X-ray machine is if he doesn’t already know the answer. “And a how-ter?” You realizer that he means “router”, but suffer a flash of panic. You’re a technical incompetent. You know a router is something to do with wifi. You know your laptop has wifi. Does your laptop have a router? You look confused and say, “laptop,” then flip you bag open in a gesture of ostentatious unconcern. He is satisfied.
You follow a long corridor between wire fences. Heavy drilling is going on in the stand to your right. The corridor turns back on itself, as though the path had been designed by MC Escher. And then, at last, you’re there, in the biggest media centre you’ve ever seen. Sprouting from every desk is an angle-poise lamp. You’ve never seen one in a media center before, never mind this many. They’re everywhere. You count them. There are 820. You wonder what on earth the point is when at least 90% of journalists will be using laptops. Who was it, when priorities were being set, who decided to prioritize the shipment of angle-poise lamps over getting all the seats fitted in the stadium?
The stadium, essentially, looks ready for Thursday’s opening game. It’s not perfect, but it will function. It’s clearly disgraceful that 1,376 people who bought tickets will not be able to attend because their seats have not been fitted, and if the weather’s as wet as it has been this week, the absence of a roof over the ends of the ground will be regretted, but most of the world will probably not be aware that anything’s amiss. The lack of full safety tests is a concern, but the stadium seems finished enough. And if the floodlights fail, there’s always the back-up of 820 lamps in the media-center.