RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) –
The appointment of an ally of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to the organising committee of the 2014 World Cup was widely seen by sports experts in the South American country on Wednesday as a last ditch effort to avoid the tournament collapsing.
World governing body FIFA announced Tuesday in Zurich that the Brazilian government would have a representative on the Local Organising Committee (LOC), which had until now been headed by Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Jose Maria Marin and ex-football stars Ronaldo and Bebeto.
The executive-secretary of the Ministry of Sport, Luis Fernandes, has been appointed as an LOC representative, which will start meeting every six to eight weeks to discuss preparation.
Despite pouring millions of dollars into the construction and modernisation of stadiums, airports, roads and public transport for the World Cup, work is seriously behind schedule.
FIFA fear that some stadiums – including the mythical Maracana in Rio where the final will be played – will not be ready to host the Conferedations Cup in June 2013, considered as a test run for the World Cup.
The decision that FIFA and Rousseff’s government would take over the organisation was taken “because it was perceived that it didn’t make sense that those who paid the bills were not represented in the LOC,” sports commentator Juca Kfouri from the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo told AFP.
“A lot is expected from Fernandes. Someone who is expected to look after the investment of public money,” said Kfouri of the former university professor and expert on the finances of the former Soviet Union.
It is the second time in history that a government has intervened in the organisation of a World Cup, after the previous edition in South Africa.
“Brazil is an emerging power but it is a poor country, with deep economic problems, and FIFA have high expectations. The Cup has to meet universal criteria and Brazil isn’t in a position to do this if the government isn’t part of the organisation,” said another sports expert Marcos Guterman.
During the meeting it was also decided that Marco Polo del Nero, a Brazilian representative at FIFA, would also join the LOC, and that the FIFA committee would meet every six to eight weeks until 2014.
FIFA president Joseph Blatter, clarified that the only intermediaries would be the Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.
Valcke had just months ago caused uproar over his comments that the Brazilian organizers needed a “kick up the backside” to hasten lagging preparations for the event.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian Senate are set to vote a bill on Wednesday evening which has been requested by FIFA since 2007 and would authorise the sale of beer in stadiums during the World Cup.
The bill has already been approved by the parliament.