World Bulletin / News Desk
With just over a week left until the World Cup opens in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, work continued Wednesday at the Arena Corinthians stadium in a final push ahead of the kickoff on June 12.
Although a few minor issues remain with severe delays, the stadium is now largely ready to receive up to 68,000 spectators for the opening match between hosts Brazil and Croatia, of which 80 percent of the tickets have been bought by Brazilians.
An Anadolu Agency (AA) correspondent at Sunday's second final test match, held after World Cup organizers FIFA's request, said there had been major improvements since the first test two weeks earlier.
However, only one of the two temporary stands, which each boast a capacity of 10,000 for the tournament, has now been publicly tested – but not to full capacity, as only 5,000 fans were allowed onto the one open temporary stand.
Local government officials told AA that both stands were ready and that private tests had been carried out by qualified engineers.
Sunday's final test saw 800 stewards and 400 volunteers helping the crowds navigate the stadiums, FIFA told AA, but this will be increased to 1,300 stewards and 1,200 volunteers for the World Cup opener on June 12, including a number proficient in English.
Keeping fans safe
Last week São Paulo inaugurated and opened a new command center with state-of-the-art surveillance technology, and access of up to 600 cameras across the city, including 30 trained on the World Cup stadium.
Some 170,000 security personnel – police, federal troops and private security – will be deployed on the streets in the twelve host cities, at a cost of at least 1.9 billion reais (US$830 million) to the government.
Authorities have their work cut out to make sure the 600,000 foreign tourists arriving in Brazil are safe in a city that is marked by its high levels of crime.
However, protests and strikes remain more of a concern, with a number of organizations coordinating to bring a day of disruption on June 12 and throughout the month-long soccer tournament.
They include the Homeless Workers' Movement, whose coordinated protest events have recently been most successful in gathering crowds – as many as 20,000 at a recent event, in scenes evocative of the hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters during the Confederations Cup in June 2013.
Thousands of homeless workers on Wednesday marched peacefully on Brazil's Arena Corinthians stadium, pressing their cause under the spotlight of the global sporting event.
Union workers of Sao Paulo's Metro subway system are set to go on strike from midnight. The city's traffic police also plan a strike on Thursday.
The frequency and intensity of protests in Brazil have picked up over the past month but it is still unclear in what direction the tide of civil disobedience is now headed.
While Wednesday's protest has been without violence, the May 27 protest outside the Mané Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia, the capital, involved clashes between riot police and Indians armed with clubs, spears and bows and arrows.
The movement is demanding housing rights for people occupying around 90 sites across the city, including one near the World Cup stadium.
The threat of public sector strikes remains, although deals over pay rises have this week been made with teachers in São Paulo, who had been on strike since April 23, and some police forces have said they are not planning on disrupting the tournament with walkouts.
However, wildcat strikes remain a possibility and other public sectors are still at loggerheads with employers – including workers in the majority of São Paulo metro (subway) system, which transports 4.5 million people daily. A decision will be taken late Wednesday on whether to bring much of the metro system to a halt Thursday in a day of industrial action.
Getting around a city of 12 million people
Sunday's final test for São Paulo's World Cup stadium was also a chance in crowd-control techniques and to see whether the city's public transport – if not disrupted by stoppages – would cope. Fans are expected to arrive using the local subway and city rail (CPTM) services, which run from the city center.
A special express CPTM service should get fans to stations serving the stadium in around 17 minutes from the center, whereas the metro takes 40 minutes.
Fans are likely to face a more grueling journey from the city's main Guarulhos International Airport: the cheapest and most reliable option is currently a 45-minute bus journey to Tatuapé metro station.
However, more expensive “executive” bus services also run from the airport to the center, and a special World Cup service between the airport and the stadium will also be in operation.
Those opting to go by taxi will pay at least $60 to reach the city center, but due to the city's often congested thoroughfares, this is not always the quickest option. It is not uncommon for the city to see 200km long traffic jams.
Visitors arriving in Brazil have been advised by an official police campaign not to flaunt expensive tablet or smartphones in public areas, and not to argue with criminals in case of assault.Last Mod: 05 Haziran 2014, 11:11