Stadium tragedy casts shadow over World Cup draw

The news on Wednesday that two people were killed in an incident at the Arena Corinthians site comes as a huge setback just days before the 32 finalists attend the draw in Bahia
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

In little more than a week from now, the World Cup draw will reveal the groupings for the 32 qualified teams in the global game’s flagship event. But whereas this should be a time of excitement as players, fans and officials get a real taste for what lies ahead in Brazil next summer, the tragic events of Wednesday in Sao Paulo mean that there will be a heavy cloud hanging over the proceedings in Costa do Sauipe next Friday.

The collapse of a crane at the Arena Corinthians, which killed two people, has taken the total death toll during construction at World Cup venues to four and will now ensure that the stadium, which is due to host the opening game of the tournament on June 12, will not be delivered until after Fifa’s December 31 deadline.



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While there is still an enquiry to be undertaken to discover exactly what happened on Wednesday, what cannot be debated is that the accident which Sepp Blatter called “deeply saddening” in a Fifa statement will create a sombre atmosphere next Friday as the finalists congregate for the first time since the tournament’s qualifying stage was concluded last week.

Corinthians announced after Wednesday’s tragedy that they would observe seven days of mourning, and Fifa should do everything it can to help the families of the victims to come to terms with their loss. A Brazilian World Cup would not have been possible without them.

It is the latest incident to blight the build-up to the tournament. On top of the three fatal accidents in construction, there have been further setbacks ever since the event was awarded to Brazil.

Two fans were shot dead on their way to a test event at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza, stadium builds have been hit by multiple delays and administration issues, building costs have sky-rocketed and public funds have been temporarily used to pay for shortfalls, prompting mass protests during this summer’s Confederations Cup.

A country which was somewhat forced into hosting the World Cup by Fifa’s decision to alternate the finals between continents is paying a heavy price, and not just monetarily. Two more families are in mourning right now. Accidents will always happen in construction, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that the difficulties which have arisen in attempting to meet a deadline which is now only five weeks away have played at least a small part in compromising safety at the sites involved.

Former Brazil international defender Lucio has admitted concern over how prepared his country is for the main event next year.

"Obviously some will fear and get anxious about our capabilities to host this event after what has happened. I think we are capable of hosting the World Cup but how good the event will be? That's another question," he told reporters.

"We ask if supporters will have good public transport, a safe environment, and nobody knows the answer.

"I think Brazil has to be more clear and organised about everything. The country shouldn't overlook the small details."

The World Cup should be a time of exaltation and excitement, not tragedy and recriminations. But Brazil has been beset by issues as the 2014 finals have approached. One can only hope that this is the final incident, the last setback, the end of the tale of woe. Other than the Arena Corinthians, there are 11 further venues due to be handed over to Fifa at the end of 2013, five of which are yet to be used for any kind of event. Each has had its issues, but by June all of them should be fit and ready, Sao Paulo included.

Football cannot fix everything, but the sooner the tournament proper gets underway and Brazil gets to see the fruit of its extensive labour the better. Fifa has sold the country short on so many levels, and given everything that has happened over the past few years, its citizens are owed a successful World Cup.

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