SPECIAL REPORT: With just over a fortnight left in the tournament, our team of correspondents lift the lid on what locals can expect to gain when it is all over
|THE NORTH||NATAL, RECIFE, FORTALEZA, SALVADOR|
MARK DOYLE, SALVADOR:
Salvador is something of an unusual case in terms of Brazil's host cities in that not only did it need a new stadium, the Arena Fonte Nova construction project was completed well in advance of the World Cup and without any relatively major issues – bar the collapse of a small section of the roof before last year’s Confederations Cup.
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Yet there is undeniably an overriding feeling that the money splashed out on the World Cup could have been better spent. In terms of infrastructure, the Metro is viewed as something of an embarrassment, firstly because of the time it has taken - construction started in 2000 but won't be fully completed until 2017 - and secondly because it currently doesn’t, as one local told me, "go anywhere useful".
However, the all-too-obvious socio-economic divide is most clearly and disturbingly illustrated by the high crime rate. "We don’t have as many murders as Sao Paulo or Rio," a taxi driver told me, "but we do have one of the highest murder rates in the world (13th in last year’s table)".LUIS HERRERA, NATAL
The fans who visited Rio Grande do Norte's capital will probably have more good memories than bad ones: the nice beaches, the tourist attractions, the relatively safe environment and the kind locals prevail over a new airport with no good connection to the city, a limited public transport system, unfinished constructions or the inconvenience caused by the intense rain in the first days of the World Cup.
Natal wasn't the best host city, but neither was it the worst. The sad part for many of its inhabitants is that the World Cup has come and gone leaving no significant impact.
Sure, they have a new beautiful stadium, Arena das Dunas, but the entire project of a commercial zone surrounding it was scheduled to be built after the tournament, which very well could mean it won't be built at all.
"How are they going to maintain it?", wonders a taxi driver as we pass by. Hosting games from local teams and staging concerts once in a while doesn't seem enough to meet the cost of the stadium in the long term.
Other than that, the city doesn't look much different to before. "They promised us many things," adds a waiter from a restaurant on the beachfront, "but it wasn't until a few months ago that we started seeing serious work."
"They" are the politicians and no one gets a free pass when the regular citizen is asked about them. The mayor, the governor, senators, the president ... many wonder how it is possible to spend so much and yet deliver so little.
"The problem is the people here don't do anything. You see the news about the protests in Rio, Sao Paulo, the big cities; and here? Nothing changes," laments a cleaning lady in one hotel.
That sums it up. The World Cup is gone and nothing has changed in Natal.
Fortaleza has been better prepared than most cities in Brazil, with Estadio Castelao completed back in 2012 – the first of the World Cup venues to be finished.
The city itself is not quite a footballing hotbed to match Rio or Sao Paulo, however, and the local clubs Ceara and Fortaleza are in the second and third divisions respectively. Despite this, they will both use the stadium for their biggest matches, as they can attract crowds of up to 40,000, although these will not be sufficient to fill the 67,000 seater venue.
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A long-discussed metro system in the city is only partially operational, and this is far from the stadium.
Socially, the problems in Fortaleza seem to have been temporarily hidden rather than solved. While the city does not have a great network of favelas, street children have been transported elsewhere in the surrounding area, locals have told me, while the city’s numerous brothels have been closed for the duration of the tournament, having the effect of pushing prostitutes onto the street – an unintended consequence.
Certainly, the problems that many Brazilian cities have suffered from during the World Cup have not been nearly as acute in Fortaleza, though there are glaring weaknesses, such as the failed metro and the incredibly poor wifi.
|CENTRAL BRAZIL||BELO HORIZONTE, BRASILIA, CUIABA
BEN HAYWARD, BELO HORIZONTE:
Estadio Mineirao was the second stadium to be ready for the World Cup, when it was proudly unveiled by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in December 2012.
Rousseff, a Belo Horizonte native, promised significant development in infrastructure and a lasting legacy in Brazil's big cities, but a new bus line in the capital of Minas Gerais was unveiled amid mixed reviews just two months before the start of the World Cup and a large section of the "Move" route is still a long way from completion.
The city's one-way system remains chaotic and extremely difficult to fathom, while the lack of signposts caused a local in his 30s to complain: "I need a GPS to drive around my city - and I have lived here all my life."
Changes implemented in the city centre have meant diversions are needed on some routes and cause further confusion, while the metro in Belo still has just one line after plans for expansion never came to fruition.
Some buildings in the city centre remain unfinished, while journalists have complained about unreliable wifi in hotels rubber-stamped by Fifa, as well as the conditions at the Chile and Argentina training camps nearby. Getting to and from these places is also problematic, with three separate buses sometimes needed and long waits likely.
So although locals seem to be enjoying the World Cup here, they are only likely to have a flash new stadium to show for it once the football leaves town in the middle of next month.
STEFAN COERTS, BRASILIA:
Brasilia is a rather odd city in that it is nothing like many other major cities in Brazil. It was built only about 50 years ago to serve as the country’s new capital and is a rather modern city. It's divided in various separated sections designed for specific functions and this division means that it’s very hard to get around by foot, so those who don’t own a car have to rely on public transport.
The plus side is that public transport is very good here. There are – admittedly crowded - buses, metros and plenty of taxi-stands to find your way around town. The infrastructure was already quite good before the World Cup and new roads connecting the airport to the central areas have only further improved the situation.
The World Cup has come at a cost, however, as the rebuilding of the Estadio Mane Garrincha reportedly cost up to R$1 billion, making it the second-most expensive stadium in the world after Wembley.
Over 1 million people have visited the stadium since the re-opening in May 2013, so there’s no denying that it has been a success so far, yet there are question marks over whether the Mane Garrincha will continue to fill up after the tournament.
Brasilia does not have a major football team and Serie D side Brasilia FC will play their games at the 69.000-seater stadium after the World Cup.
The stadium has also been used – and will continue to be used - for concerts and other events, but is unlikely to attract as many spectators for football games again as during this tournament, bar the occasional Brazil game.
PETER STAUNTON, CUAIBA:
To say Cuiaba was not ready for the World Cup would be an understatement. On the trip from the yet-to-be-completed airport terminal - past the unfinished tram and down the dilapidated roads or the highways still under construction - it was not necessary to look very far to see the level of under-preparedness for this tournament.
Likewise, the stadium has had an unfinished feel about it and was rough around the edges in parts. However, delve a little deeper and you find the fact that the infrastructure was not ready in time is a minor irrelevance for people in this remote Mato Grosso city.
Cuiaba has lacked a basic infrastructural upgrade for the past 30 years, so the fact that the World Cup prompted federal and state spending on infrastructural projects is a shot in the arm for the city.
It may not have been all ready in time for the finals but the people of Cuiaba will enjoy the benefits for generations to come, once it's all finished.
The stadium won't become a white elephant. The local American Football team, Arsenal Cuiaba, is more popular than either of the two football teams and boasts a good pedigree. They are two-time national champions. They will probably not fill it but there is no doubt that their new home will serve them well. On top of that, some of Brazil's biggest club sides plan to play matches during the next Brasileirao season at this stadium.
On a protest level, there have been some banners hanging in the local University where teams have trained which decries the fact that money could have been better spent.
But there has not been the same widespread discontent as in other cities. Tourists only come to Cuiaba to access the rich natural treasures of the Pantanal and rarely stick around.
To have had up to 40,000 extra tourists in town for a fortnight was a massive boost to the local economy. That is vital income for what is a relatively poor area. Bar-owners, restaurateurs, hoteliers and taxi drivers are not in a position to turn down extra business.
||RIO DE JANEIRO, SAO PAULO, CURITIBA, PORTO ALEGRE
GREG STOBART, RIO DE JANEIRO:
Many of the defining images Brazil have tried to present to the world are captured in Rio de Janeiro, from the golden beaches to Christ the Redeemer and the Maracana.
Of all the host cities, Rio has benefitted more than most. The refurbished Maracana, for example, cost €400 million but will also serve as the Olympic stadium in 2016 while hosting matches for the four major domestic teams in the city.
The subway system – admittedly very basic in its reach – has also been improved, but that has done nothing to relieve the notorious rush hour traffic when the roads come to a standstill.
Since 2008, around 200 of Rio’s 850 or so favelas have been 'pacified' by armed police and military, who have gone in to previously no-go areas and driven out criminal gangs. That process has been driven by the need to improve safety in the build-up to the World Cup and Olympics.
Yet this is a city where many people would have to work for several days to afford one beer and a bag of crisps in a Copacabana bar or restaurant.
In that sense, not much has changed since I was here a year ago during the Confederations Cup, when more than one million people took to the streets in Rio alone during nationwide protests against the government.
Rio is about as first world as it gets in Brazil. Yet in so many ways it highlights exactly why the country is still 'developing' and still far from 'developed'.
KRIS VOAKES, SAO PAULO:
Being such a sprawling mass of mini cities stuck together like a patchwork quilt, it would probably have taken 70 years rather than seven to prepare Sao Paulo in such a way that it was truly ready to host a World Cup. And as a result, it is hard to really say what legacy the tournament will truly leave in the city.
The Fan Fest at Vale do Anhangabau says much about the city itself, with the big screen and stage being set up for the duration of the World Cup in a square otherwise dominated by grew, lifeless tower blocks. Areas like this dominate what is the largest city in the southern hemisphere.
A shiny new 48,000 capacity stadium will be left behind, but there is likely to be very little further evidence that this city once hosted the World Cup in years to come. That, in part, is due to the broken promises regarding a high-speed rail link between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but also reflects the very nature of the city.
Slums will remain prevalent and high-rise residential buildings will continue to overwhelm the skyline, with the Arena Corinthians standing out only for those who occasionally venture out the 40-minute drive to the east of the city.
For most of the 20 million people here, it will feel a lot like the World Cup never came to town.
PILAR SUAREZ, CURITIBA:
Arena da Baixada almost lost its status as a World Cup host city because of delays in the flow of money. Fifa demanded an expansion of 40,000 seats to increase the capacity of the stadium and total investment to cover the entire reconstruction spiralled to a staggering R$90 million.
Joaquim Américo Guimarães stadium is considered the second most modern and best-built stadium in Brazil after the Estadio Olímpico Joao Havelange, which will be the main stadium for the Olympic Games 2016.
With the World Cup approaching and Arena da Baixada still clearly not ready, the decision was taken to end the construction. Around the inner facilities we can still see parts which remain unfinished, broken glass on the floor, bricks and cement, and the lockers in the dressing rooms are akin to those used in a school.
Arena da Baixada is one of the oldest stadiums in Brazil and is also the home of Club Atletico Paranaense. It was built in 1914 and the first remodelling took place in 1999.
Around it, all you can still see houses and small restaurants, the streets are well built and paved. Taxis and buses easily reach the area but at night it does not seem a safe place to walk - or at least this is what some volunteers have warned us.
It is uncertain whether all the remodelling will be completed once the World Cup ends and although the reconstruction of the stadium has not brought any social benefit to Curitibans, the only certainty is that Paranaense will benefit from this great investment.
After much debate over which of the two Porto Alegre major clubs would have the honor of hosting the World Cup, Internacional's Beira-Rio won the race over rivals Gremio who, for their part, had their new stadium (Arena Porto-Alegrense) finished before the reconstruction of Beira-Rio.
During that time, the complications between Inter and constructors Andrade Gutierrez almost transferred the World Cup to their rivals' new home, where construction work was already in full flow by March 2012 when, eventually, the rebuild of the 'Gigante' started.
Curiously, the original plans meant the club was going to pay for the whole thing by itself, before they had to live up to the so-called 'Fifa standards' that rocketed the total cost of work up to R$150 million, almost double the first estimates.
Apart from that, there was also a feud between Fifa, Internacional and the Town Hall of Porto Alegre, as the club left the cost of the temporary structures for the World Cup (estimated at R$15m) for the city to pay just a few months before the tournament started.
Nonetheless, it's true that Internacional fans are already excited, and proud, that their refurbished home hosted the likes of France, Netherlands and Argentina. The clubs' fanbase, which is roughly half of the state of Rio Grande do Sul's population, is their best bet to make the investment worthwhile, in contrast to other distant regions of the country where football is not as developed.
On the contrary, Inter want to make Beira-Rio their fortress to continue bringing in significant titles, like the two Copa Libertadores titles won over the last decade, as well as getting their hands on the National Championship, a title they haven't won since 1979.
Here, the Gre-Nal rivalry, as it is seen, is actually helping to bring both clubs into a whole new era, as Porto Alegre is the only city with two modern sporting venues in Brazil to date.