SAO PAULO – “There is no way this will be ready.” That was the thought that went through my mind back in May 2011, while I was standing on an empty dirty lot in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, gazing at a giant dirt hole as two small tractors sat idle. Not one construction worker was within sight.
The location was the future site of the new football stadium that will open the 2014 World Cup.
Back then, Sao Paulo was under intense pressure. The construction of the new stadium here was highly political and hampered by delays. There was even talk of moving the World Cup opening match to Brasilia.
But Sao Paulo is the economic hub of Brazil, the city where things get done in this country.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday.
A massive stadium, punctuated by cranes, has risen from the dirt hole I stood in back in mid-2011. It’s not completed yet, but it’s 94 percent done, builders say. It looked more like about 80 percent done to me, but engineers have weird ways to measure such things.
Either way, as far as stadiums are concerned, it’s quite an impressive site.
Local officials are headed to Abu Dhabi next week to try to sell the naming rights to –what they hope would be – either Etihad Airways or Emirates Airlines.
Despite the naysayers of 2011, like me, the stadium will be delivered.
Many problems prevail with the preparations for the World Cup. As I recently reported, host city Cuiaba is way behind on everything. In another host city, Manaus, known for having the country’s worst public transportation, the light rail project never happened, much to the fury of local residents.
Many of the urban transport projects, meant to benefit Brazilians for long after the football is over, will either not materialise, be delayed, and/or cost a lot more taxpayer money than what was originally projected.
In the short term, I suspect stadiums are what matter the most to FIFA, because without them, there is no World Cup. And Brazil will deliver 12 of them, as promised.
Brazil has lots of problems (both short and long term ones) to solve before this World Cup, and it will make for a tonne of copy for journalists over the next seven months.
Nonetheless, there are signs that things are taking shape, at least based on where things were just a couple years ago.
Just take a look at that dirt hole on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter @elizondogabriel