Crossing the Guaíba River into the historic Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, the Beira-Rio Stadium is unmissable. Amongst the cranes and ships that hurry to-and-fro in this important southern port, it’s white, sail-like façade illuminates the grey, late-autumn horizon.
“The Gigante”, as it is known here, is the largest football stadium in all of southern Brazil and is no stranger to big occasions. It has hosted four Copa Libertadores finals and games in the 1950 World Cup. As the home of Internacional, it regularly hosts the local derby with Grêmio and has seen legends such as Ronaldinho and Dunga grace it’s turf, as well as the likes of Diego Forlan, Giberto Silva and Chelsea-star Oscar.
With only a few days to go until this four-yearly football fest kicks-off, are the negative news reports surrounding the World Cup and Brazil’s unpreparedness for such an event really accurate?
In Porto Alegre at least, the overwhelming atmosphere is distinctly low-key. A few signs direct traffic towards the stadium but the city centre and it’s population move in a regular rhythm, with little to indicate that the arrival of the world and it’s media is imminent. The local transport infrastructure does not seem to have been revamped, roads and pavements are still under repair, and clear directions to key parts of the city are conspicuous by their absence.
Brazil 2014 will not be a world sporting event lauded for its superb organization and seamless execution in the same vein as London 2012 or the 2002 Korean World Cup, but why should that matter to such an extent?
With Russia next and Qatar to follow, this could well be the last romantic World Cup for years to come. So, maybe we should move away from such an obsession with train times and perfect gloss finishes and embrace the beauty and rhythm of the South American way. This will be a World Cup done the Brazilian way – full of passion, full of flare and full of the unexpected.