The last train to Sao Paulo trundled out of Rio de Janeiro's
Central station several years ago and it could be an even longer
wait for the next one.
While tens of thousands of fans who went to this year's World
Cup in Germany were whisked around the country by high-speed trains
which streaked through a sleek, modern rail network with clockwork
reliability, Brazil, candidates to host the 2014 finals, abandoned
its passenger trains years ago.
The alternatives are bone-crunching bus and car journeys of
hundreds of kilometers over pot-holed highways, some of them
stalked by gun-toting bandits, or the uncertainties of a chaotic
air transport system.
Brazilian air transport has been in crisis following the
country's worst air crash on Sept. 29 in which 154 people died.
The last few weeks have seen hundreds of delays and
cancellations following a work-to-rule by air traffic controllers,
who are widely reported to be underpaid, overworked and dependent
upon unreliable obsolete equipment.
Yet a good transport network is one of the key criteria for
successfully staging a World Cup.
The lack of it is one of the many stumbling blocks facing Brazil
and, to a lesser extent, rivals Colombia, the only two nations to
formally express their interest to FIFA in staging the 2014 World
Cup before the Dec. 18 deadline.
The tournament is due to be staged in South America under FIFA's
new rotation system which will begin in South Africa in 2010.
FIFA, however, has already said it will look elsewhere if the
South American Confederation cannot produce a bid which meets its
Until this week, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF)
believed that it would have a clear shot at the tournament.
Three years ago, the federations of the South American countries
voted unanimously to back Brazil as their only candidate.
But the Colombian FA broke ranks this week under pressure from
Presi0dent Alvaro Uribe, who wanted the country to launch its own
The Brazilian media immediately dismissed the Colombian bid.
"They know they won't win, but at the least they will put the
country on display," sneered the Rio de Janeiro-based daily
newspaper O Globo in an editorial.
In fact, there seems little to choose between the two, apart
from Brazil's incomparable tradition on the field and the fact that
it has already hosted one World Cup back in 1950.
Both are multi-racial nations of stunning natural beauty whose
inhabitants are known to like a good party but where a reputation
for violence puts off foreign visitors.
Brazil's security problems are largely urban, highlighted
recently when two of the country's top judges were car-jacked by
eight armed bandits on the main road from Rio de Janeiro airport to
the city centre.
Colombia has seen a sharp drop in urban crime in four years
under President Uribe but parts of the countryside are still
controlled by guerilla groups, who have fuelled a 42-year civil
Both countries' previous attempts to host the event ended in
embarrassing and early withdrawals.
Colombia were awarded the 1986 World Cup but pulled out two
years before it was due to be staged because of economic problems.
The tournament was instead held in Mexico.
Brazil were candidates to stage the 2006 World Cup but withdrew
three days before the final vote decided in Germany's favor in July
The campaign never captured the public's imagination and
attracted vociferous opposition from Pele, who described it as a
waste of money.
Colombia and Brazil would have to invest lavishly in new
stadiums. The Metropolitano stadium in Barranquilla is the only
Colombian arena which comes near to World Cup level while
Curitiba's Arena da Baixada is the only Brazilian stadium which
would have any chance of passing the test today.
The world famous Maracana, like many of the gigantic stadiums
built around Brazil between 1950 and 1980, is now crumbling and
many believe it should be pulled down.
Both countries are confident they can drum up the necessary
investments but neither has yet to announce concrete plans about
how they intend to bring their infrastructure upto scratch.
So far, the respective discourses have been limited to words of
"We can do it, we can provide the necessary investments and the
country has to start thinking about big projects," Colombia
Vice-President Francisco Santos told Reuters this week. "Countries
need to have dreams, they need great achievements."
Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was similarly
"Football is the greatest passion in the country and it deserves
to host the World Cup," he said recently.
"I will give all the backing necessary to (CBF president)
Ricardo Teixeira so that, 64 years on, we can hold the World Cup in
(China Daily December 23, 2006)