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Can Brazil Get Ready For Big Sporting Events In Time?


This year's Summer Olympic Games has ended and the starting gun has already fired for preparations for Rio 2016. Brazil also has to contend with hosting the World Cup in 2014. Busy times for that country. Despite all this, construction projects for both of those mega events are far behind schedule. Foreign investors are not happy with Brazil's tangled bureaucracy, and thousands of federal employees in the country are on strike. Will Brazil be ready in time for either of these global sporting events?

We're putting that question to Brazilian journalist Fernando Rodrigues. He is a columnist for Folha de Sao Paulo and he joins us from his newsroom in that city. Good morning.


GREENE: So how are preparations going?

RODRIGUES: Well, they are not going very well, as you mentioned in your introduction. But because the Olympic Games are a little bit far away, it's going to be in 2016, I believe the federal government in Brazil is well-aware of the hurdles ahead. And I think they will try to do what they have to do in the next coming months, to make the country more prepared.

GREENE: I want to some of the challenges that you're talking about. But first, just capture for me how important this is. I mean either one of these events individually would be a big deal for a country, in terms of showcasing itself. But, you know, we have these mega events. The pressure is really on for Brazil.

RODRIGUES: Yes there is a lot of pressure and I would say, if I had to pick one of those two events, I think Brazilians will be more interested in the World Cup because this is a national sport in Brazil - football, as we call it. And there's much pressure on the government and the authorities involved in organizing the World Cup rather than the Olympics.

The challenges for that are immense because the infrastructure in the country is not as good as one would have liked it to be, because we don't have airports, we don't have the roads, we don't have all of those transportation means that will be required for a major event like that.

GREENE: You said we don't have airports. If we're dealing with cities around the country that sounds like a big concern.

RODRIGUES: Well, actually when I say we don't the airports in the condition to be used for major events like that. They are very modest facilities in some places. The airports are being used over their capacities. So, when I say we don't have airports, we don't have airports prepared to support all the tourists that we're going to have in two years time.

GREENE: What is the mood? Are people already getting, you know, really excited for the World Cup? Are they nervous that the country might not pull it off?

RODRIGUES: There is a trauma in Brazil. We...


RODRIGUES: We hosted the World Cup in 1950 and Brazil lost in the finals to Uruguay, two - one. Brazil has won already five times the World Cup. But all those titles came from abroad, never here in Brazil. This is going to be the second time the country will host the World Cup, and most of Brazilian fans will hope that the national team will be able to redeem the failure of 62 years ago now. Isn't it?

GREENE: Well, Brazil looking redemption on the football field and also looking to pull off two major events: The World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Fernando, thanks so much for joining us.

RODRIGUES: Thank you very much for having me.

GREENE: Fernando Rodrigues is a columnist who covers national politics for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.