SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – Brazil’s preparations to host this month’s Confederations Cup deserve high marks, despite criticism over everything from delayed stadium projects to chaotic ticket delivery, the sports minister said on Monday.
“I’d give us a nine” out of 10, Aldo Rebelo said on a conference call with foreign media. “We’ve been able to deliver all the stadiums but we could have delivered them sooner to allow for the realisation of more test events.
“Apart from that, all the requirements were executed in accordance with expectations,” he added.
Four of the six stadiums that will host Confederations Cup matches were delivered late, including Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracan?, whose immediate surroundings still look like a construction site. The Maracan? will host the final.
Ticketing has also been an issue. Some fans complained FIFA asked them to pick up their match tickets weeks after the games are scheduled to take place. Others were given hand-written notes and told to come back and pick up their tickets later.
The two-week tournament is considered an important test run for next year’s World Cup and features the hosts along with Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Tahiti and Uruguay.
It kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday when Brazil face Japan in one of the most expensive venues. The National Stadium holds 70,000 but the capital has no top soccer clubs and the arena is a candidate to be one of a handful of white elephants.
Rebelo dismissed those concerns, saying stadiums in remote cities such as Cuiaba and Manaus can be used to hold concerts and other shows as well as soccer matches.
“People who question the stadiums of Brasilia, Manaus and Cuiaba have no idea what these metropolises are, they don’t know they are important cities,” Rebelo said.
“These stadiums have been conceived as multi-purpose arenas. They will be much more than football pitches.”
Rebelo also said public transport was not an issue as visitors arrive for the Confederations Cup.
Although Brazil’s rickety airports and underdeveloped transport systems have not received the promised upgrades, that is expected to be more of a problem for next year’s World Cup than this month’s warm-up tournament.
Only three percent of Confederations Cup tickets were sold to foreigners with up to 25,000 overseas visitors expected to attend the matches. The number of people visiting Brazil for next year’s World Cup is expected to exceed 500,000.