After accidents, WCup organizers defend record
Days after the latest death by a World Cup worker, organizers
insisted Tuesday they aren’t sacrificing safety in a rush to
complete stadiums for next year’s tournament.
A laborer fell 115 feet Saturday in the jungle city of Manaus at
the Arena Amazonia, one of Brazil’s stadiums that is behind
schedule. That was the second death there in less than a year, and
the fifth at a World Cup venue in the past two years.
Ron DelMont, the managing director of FIFA’s World Cup Brazil
office, and Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said safety isn’t
being compromised for speed.
”There is never a discussion that says you have to cut any
corners to make sure that you deliver the stadium,” DelMont
DelMont said FIFA has ”at no point” suggested loosening its
safety requirements and ”everything that we ask for is within the
legislation and the guidelines of the government.”
”I have to say it’s a bit frustrating to make that kind of
suggestion that the event is much more important than the safety of
the workers because it’s not only the safety of the workers, it’s
the safety of the spectators,” he said. ”So we don’t compromise
Fernandes, speaking in the same interview with a small group of
reporters, said he’s ”pretty sure” accident rates on World Cup
venues are ”well under” those in other sectors of Brazilian
”It’s a tragedy for all of us but I would not credit that to
any undue pressure,” Fernandes said, referring to the death in
Manaus. ”There are accidents that are involved when you have so
many thousands of workers.”
He noted that the construction companies at nearly all stadiums
are ”very experienced” and global. He promised ”full punishment
under the rule of law” for any firm that violates Brazil’s ”very
strict, rigid, firm, labor protection laws.”
Two workers were killed when a crane collapsed on Nov. 27 as it
was hoisting a 500-ton piece of roofing at the stadium in Sao Paulo
that will host the World Cup opener. Last year, a worker died at
the construction site of the stadium in Brasilia. The other death
in Manaus happened in March.
The most delayed stadium is expected to be the one in Sao Paulo,
where construction is to finish April 15, followed by test
Among other venues, the west-central city of Cuiaba also stands
out because so much supporting infrastructure is still being worked
on. For now, travelers there land at an airport bustling with
construction, take a road half ripped up for promised tramlines and
arrive at a stadium where the roof and facades aren’t finished. The
muddy field was only recently seeded.
”Cuiaba is a construction site,” Fernandes said. ”But I think
from the government perspective that’s a very good situation
because it won’t be a construction site for the World Cup.”
On other topics, Fernandes and DelMont said they don’t expect
the World Cup atmosphere to fall completely flat if Brazil’s
national team doesn’t reach the final on July 13.
Citing brisk ticket sales, Fernandes also said ”genuine
enthusiasm” in Brazil for the World Cup will help reduce the risk
of violent demonstrations like those that shook the Confederations
Cup warmup tournament in June.
”There’s been a change in public opinion,” Fernandes said.
”There’s much less acceptance or tolerance in public opinion to
these types of acts of violence.”
As for Brazil’s prospects of winning for a sixth time and for
the first time at home, the minister noted that the path beyond the
group stage for the national team looks ”very difficult.”
The last time Brazil hosted the World Cup was 1950 when it lost
to Uruguay in the final. This time, world champion Spain or 2010
runner-up the Netherlands lurk as likely opponents for Brazil in
the second round.
”How will people react if we lose along the way? I mean, they
won’t react well,” Fernandes said.
”But they are also football fans,” he said. ”Interest will
continue in the World Cup if Brazil is eliminated but that ghost
(of 1950) will continue to haunt us.”
Follow John Leicester at http://twitter.com/johnleicester