Cup half full in Brazil?

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After almost two years of relative inaction, Brazil is finally waking up to the fact that it will be hosting one of the world's biggest events in five years time, writes Brazil–based journalist Simon Tarmo.

Although Brazil was selected as the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in mid–2007, only in recent months have the first rumblings of Cup–focused planning and development really begun. At the end of May 2009, FIFA will announce the 12 Brazilian cities that will host 64 matches over two months in June and July 2014. This selection process has been the driver of a wave of activity from state governments and city councils around the country all trying to prove their credentials and secure one of the coveted positions. This in turn has aroused significant concerns about just how much work will be required to get Brazil ready for the event, across the wide range of sectors that will play their part. In terms of Brazil's sport and major event technology, the 2014 FIFA World Cup should create a veritable revolution. To begin with, just about every potential host stadium around the country, even those in the big cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, are still well short of the standards required by FIFA. All of the existing stadia to be used will therefore be undergoing major refurbishment and remodelling over the coming years, while up to four new facilities will be built from scratch. A key part of this upgrading process will involve stadium technology, with much of the infrastructure demanded by modern football and sport simply not currently available in Brazilian facilities. The improvements will need to be as wide ranging as they are drastic, incorporating comprehensive communications systems catering for operational, promotional, entertainment, media and on–field requirements, new business and corporate hospitality facilities, accessibility and safety provisions and, last but certainly not least, security. The latter is considered one of the most important areas to be addressed for Brazil 2014 and the powers that be are acting. In March 2009, the Brazilian government launched a new project aimed at significantly raising the bar on spectator security at football matches in preparation for the Cup. The 'Torcida Legal' (literally 'legal supporter') project has as one of its central features the installation of sophisticated crowd monitoring and security technology in all stadia in Brazil with a capacity of more than 10, 000 spectators. The project sets tough minimum standards covering the control of access to stadia, the amount of video cameras and monitors throughout the facility and the establishment of fully–equipped security centres. The requirements will come into effect for the beginning of the 2010 Brazilian domestic football season with a view to ironing out all kinks well in time for the 2013 Confederations Cup, one year before the main event. Another important factor in Brazil's preparation for the Cup involves the ongoing use of stadia. A small controversy continues to unfold in the country surrounding a recent statement by FIFA's marketing department discouraging the use of stadia with athletics tracks separating the crowd from the field of play, a comment that has raised the ire of Brazilian athletics officials while also highlighting the important issue concerning the ongoing utility of modern day stadia. Although there may be little choice in some cases, it will be interesting to see if the FIFA pressure translates into either design modifications allowing for moveable seating and stadia reconfiguration or the removal of athletic tracks entirely. Just which groups will steer the modernisation process the 2014 host stadia will require largely remains to be seen. Sinaenco, Brazil's national association of architectural and consulting engineering companies, affirmed recently that Brazilian groups have sufficient expertise, knowledge and experience to develop and manage projects for the Cup across all relevant areas of infrastructure. Whilst this may be true to some extent, the combination of a relatively short timeframe, 12 separate locations and a long list of requirements spanning many different sectors presents a major challenge that will rapidly escalate in magnitude if any hiccups are encountered along the way. Considering again the aforementioned fact that not one single stadium in Brazil currently meets the standards imposed by FIFA to host World Cup matches, it would appear that significant international involvement will be required, particularly when it comes to the likes of specialised technology and major event know–how. One group that will almost certainly play a part is FIFA's official technology sponsor for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Satyam. At present, the Indian company has only a small presence in Brazil and with the group's recent activities clouded by a series of controversies and the shock resignation and jailing of founder and chairman Ramalinga Raju there have been few hints as to just how it will handle Brazil 2014. Satyam has significantly ramped up its involvement and presence in the South African market ahead of the 2010 Cup, however one major issue in Brazil is the language barrier, which the company has already cited as being a problem when it first entered the market in 2004. In South Africa, Satyam is playing a crucial role in developing the core IT event management system for FIFA and its service partner for IT, accommodation and hospitality – MATCH AG, while the company is also working closely with the local organising committee. The question is whether this level of involvement will be repeated for Brazil 2014, and just who will fill in the gaps if not. Whilst it is easy to raise doubts about and cast aspersions at any country preparing to host an event as big and prestigious as the FIFA World Cup, something that cannot be questioned is Brazil's strong desire, and indeed major potential, to make 2014 a grand success. Come 31 May 2009, when FIFA names the 12 Brazilian cites to host 2014 matches, the real test of just how to make that happen will really begin. About Simon TarmoA journalist from Sydney, Australia and co–founder of industry journal AustralianSponsorship News, Simon Tarmo now lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Having worked on a range of writing, research and translation projects across a number of industries including sport, entertainment and wine, he is currently focusing on business opportunities involving the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. With above–average Portuguese language skills, he has an extensive network of contacts throughout Brazil and can advise and assist foreign groups doing business in the country. Simon Tarmo+55 31 9196 0069simon@pando. com. auwww. sponsorshipnews. com. auwww. copa2014. org. br

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