In less than 24 hours, the first match between Brazil and Croatia will kick off in Sao Paulo. Most people will be watching the tournament on TV, but it’s expected that over 600,000 visitors and 3 million Brazilians will be traveling within the country during the World Cup. Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations. As kickoff approaches, it is unlikely that Sao Paulo and the other host cities will ultimately be ready for all the travelers. Case in point, at least five of 12 host cities have admitted they will not deliver on the promised bus lanes, metros or monorails before the World Cup.
A report by the London School of Economics said that Sao Paulo faces severe traffic congestion. Sao Paulo already has some of the worst traffic in the world, stretching between 112 and 183 miles on Friday evenings. Average commutes by car range from one hour in each direction to two hours at the end of the workday and “morning, noon and night, the people of Brazil’s biggest city are stuck behind the wheel.” On May 23, the city even experienced a 214-mile traffic jam:
This will be just as big of a problem for visitors if they take taxis or use public transit. Taxis in Sao Paulo are not cheap and can be very expensive during traffic. There is a $2 minimum charge, with each mile costing $3. Also, there is a $15 minimum surcharge for every hour in the car.
Despite $14.5 billion allocated for stadiums and urban transportation, infrastructure projects have taken a backseat to stadiums because of delays. The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo is expected to cost $820 million, while public transit remains inadequate and of poor quality. Further highlighting the issues with transit infrastructure, 10 percent of subway trips linked to rail are not linked between bus and rail routes. Last summer, an estimated 1.25 million people took part in 80 rallies across the country over bus fares, as well as spending too much on stadiums and not enough on infrastructure, hospitals, and schools. Despite promises from President Rousseff, nothing has materialized on the ground. Brazilian soccer legend Pele even voiced his concern for infrastructure and poor organization overall.
This World Cup is unique because each of the group matches is held in a different city. So unlike previous tournaments, teams will play each group stage match in a different Brazilian city. For fans, transportation promises to be a continued problem throughout the tournament. Visitors should leave very early for events and be mindful of their surroundings. Security concerns have been growing as protests have materialized around the World Cup; Brazilian police are also known for their heavy use of rubber bullets, pepper spray, and batons. Armed gangs have openly admitted to their plans to rob England fans because “They’ll be naïve and easy to rob, much easier than people from Sao Paulo, who are used to having a gun pointed at them.”
For Brazilian officials, investors, and future host countries, these transportation issues should serve as a lesson. As other host nations have shown, the World Cup does not earn a great profit and will only increase GDP by 0.04%. If most of the investment is in stadiums and not infrastructure, as South Africa has shown, the benefits will be limited and expensive.
There are long debates about whether or not to host the World Cup. On one hand, Brazilians have a titanic passion for soccer, which is an essential part of their proud nation. And on the other, the people’s feeling that the country has ascended has wavered because of the transportation issues as well as the violence and corruption. Ticket sales for the World Cup have broken records and attendees will see a mostly polished Brazil. However, the long-term benefits for ordinary citizens and visitors remains in doubt.