Cuiaba — Pedestrians tiptoe across a road scarred with deep
puddles, piles of gravel and a detour sign. Black oily slush leaves no room for
missteps or steering mistakes.
The debris in this small city in western Brazil is part of
the grand-scale mess of unfulfilled promises. Unfinished infrastructure
projects were supposed to create a new metropolis, with modern roads and a
light-rail system to whiz passengers to the city center from a gleaming 21st
century airport in time for this summer's World Cup. From the look of things,
they won't be done in Cuiaba — or in the country's other 11 host cities, where
many construction plans are hopelessly behind schedule, or have been canceled.
"This work here that's right by the stadium, I think
they'll get it finished," said Atilio Martinelli, who runs a locksmith
business near the building site. "It'll be done poorly and at the last
minute, but they'll at least finish it. But there is no way they'll finish most
of the other projects. It's going to be a great humiliation for us."
There was a time when South America's biggest country seemed
like the perfect place for football's showcase event. It is the game's lone
superpower and the home of Pele, its most famous brand. Instead, the country is
a logistical mess and bracing for potentially violent anti-government protests
like the ones that surrounded a World Cup warm-up tournament last year.
After Brazil was awarded the cup in 2007, politicians
promised $8 billion would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other
projects nationwide, in addition to $3.5 billion for construction or renovation
of 12 stadiums for the tournament. Nine of the stadiums are finished, but just
seven of the infrastructure projects have been completed with the competition
three months away.
— In Belo Horizonte, a planned subway system was scrapped
and replaced with bus lines. A new international air terminal was also
— In Salvador, another promised subway system was turned
over to a private company and work is now scheduled to start after the
— A new runway was proposed for the World Cup at Rio de
Janeiro's main airport. It is unclear now if it will even be built in time for
the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
— A monorail system officials promised would revolutionize
transportation in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus was hastily nixed late last
year after government regulators found it wasn't a viable project.
Bemoaning the infrastructure problems became as much a
national pastime as soccer.
For the latest on
national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and
like our Facebookpage.