Traffic was bumper to bumper on Monday as transport workers continued their industrial action just days before the tournament kicks off at the Arena Corinthians
By Kris Voakes in Sao Paulo
Tempers are frayed, passions are running high, civilians are clashing with police, everybody is attempting to have their say and nobody is going anywhere fast.
This is Sao Paulo in the week in which it hosts World Cup 2014's opening fixture.
The subway workers’ strike which began last week is set to enter its sixth day on Tuesday, leaving authorities sweating over the city’s fitness to stage Thursday's Brazil v Croatia clash, which will mark the beginning of this year’s biggest global sporting event.
The strike has now been declared illegal in the country’s courtrooms but workers continue to petition for a huge wage rise, seeking increased compensation after years of perceived underpayment. In the meantime, journey times are being almost endlessly extended.
My approximate 35-minute taxi ride from the international airport in the North East of the city to the town centre turned into a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal as Sao Paulo’s 20 million inhabitants attempted to negotiate their city early on Monday morning without its quickest and most effective mode of transport.
Twenty-minute metro rides have temporarily become two-hour bus journeys. Trips of more than five miles across the city are being cancelled in order to save immense hassle.
Those on the picket line have come up against stern opposition, with police firing tear gas at protestors outside the Ana Rosa subway station to the south of the city centre on Monday. While those for whom the underground network is a way to earn a living continue to make their concerns heard in the loudest possible fashion while the ears of the world tilt in their direction, the remainder of the city is lamenting the chaos that has been caused as a result of the stoppages.
Brazil has long since lost hope of coming out of this summer with the right to call the World Cup a complete success. A success of any kind might even be pushing it as things stand.
|High-speed rail links between major cities were also promised but never delivered and, as the World Cup countdown clicks ever closer to zero, so do the speedometers all across South America’s biggest city
There have been fatal accidents during construction of new stadia, while many of the venues remain incomplete with just hours to go before the big kick-off. Protests from citizens claiming the government to have misspent on the festival of football rather than filtering funds into healthcare, housing and education have brought various cities to a standstill and threaten to do so again throughout the tournament.
High-speed rail links between major cities were also promised but never delivered and, as the World Cup countdown clicks ever closer to zero, so do the speedometers all across South America’s biggest city.
The metro workers have taken the decision to suspend their strike for two days as negotiations continue for improved rights and salaries but the threat has been made clear: give us what we want, or we will strike again. On the opening day of the World Cup. It's an unthinkable scenerio.
At a time when local businesses are taking in a record influx of foreign clients, first impressions should be positive but, instead, pleasantries are mixed with apologies.
“Welcome to Sao Paulo. Sorry about the chaos.”
The rest of the globe is ready for the World Cup's big bow but the host city has never been more ill-prepared.
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