Brazil says World Cup legacy justifies the cost

RIO DE JANEIRO Tue Oct 30, 2007 11:36pm GMT

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil has promised it can meet the huge costs of staging the 2014 World Cup and that the legacy of improved public services and foreign investment will justify the expenses involved.

But, amid the jubilation which followed FIFA's decision to award the tournament to the country on Tuesday, there were also worries that public spending could spiral out of control.

Brazil currently does not have a stadium which meets the requirements for a World Cup finals match and at least 10 to 12 arenas would have to be completely reformed or built from scratch.

Eighteen stadiums have been put forward on a preliminary basis of which 14 already exist and four would be brand new.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has estimated that the stadiums alone would require investments of $1.1 billion (532 million pounds), which it says would come from the private sector.

"The model (of investment) gives priority for private investment in the construction and reform of the stadiums," said CBF president Ricardo Teixeira during his presentation to FIFA in Zurich on Tuesday.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper two days earlier, Teixeira said the CBF had already been in contact with foreign investors over stadium reforms.

Away from the stadiums, spending on infrastructure will be provided by federal, state and city governments.

"It will leave an important inheritance for the future," said Teixeira. "There will be improvements in transport infrastructure, hospitals and a significant improvement in public security."

HOT AIR

However, no budget has been publicly announced for non-sporting infrastructure, increasing concerns of uncontrolled government spending.

Those concerns have been heightened because the Pan American Games, which took place in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, were widely reported to have over-run original cost estimates by 900 percent.

The event also failed to leave long-term improvements in transport, environment and public safety after original projects were abandoned.

"The discourse that nearly all the expenses will be funded by private enterprise is hot air," said former Brazil forward Tostao, now one of the country's most respected newspaper columnists.

"Apart from being responsible for the public works, the government will spend the possible and the impossible. The Pan American Games were an example of this.

"The biggest suspicion is that in Brazil it appears almost impossible to hold a World Cup without wasting public money.

Socrates, who played for Brazil in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, said: "It will come out of our pockets once again."

Former Finance Minister Luiz Gonzaga Belluzo warned against underestimating the size of the job in hand.

"Today, Brazil is very unprepared if you compare it to other countries, although in seven years' time it could be better," he said.

"In an event such as the Formula One Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, it is evident that the city does not have infrastructure."

(additional reporting by Tatiana Ramil in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca)

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