Brazil sees airports as key challenge for World Cup

Brazil faces a major challenge in modernising its airports ahead of next year's World Cup and will make available both civilian and military airfields for the teams, a government official said.

"The big problem" for the tournament is "the quality of airports", Luis Fernandes, the government representative on the World Cup's Local Organising Committee (COL) said in an interview with foreign correspondents in the northeastern city of Recife Sunday.

The work to completely upgrade the airports will be finished in 2018 and the 32 squads and officials will be able to use both civilian and military airports, Fernandes added.

Fernandes, who is also executive secretary in the sports ministry, said the tournament offers great development opportunities for Brazil and he insisted the country will stage an "excellent" World Cup with a "Brazilian touch".

---Why is it important for Brazil to host the World Cup ? --------------------------------"FIFA must guarantee the success of the event but we (the government) must also ensure that it helps the development of the regions and the country. This is why we chose to have 12 host cities instead of eight. All are tourist hubs who will benefit from the infrastructure improvements (ports, airports, urban mobility, telecommunications).

The federal government is to invest $15 billion in the World Cup and this June's Confederations Cup. These events raised the country's international profile. Brazil wants to boost its tourism. This will lure investments. We expect a 0.5 percent hike annually in the national GDP as a result of these sporting events (including the 2016 summer Olympics).

--- Will everything be ready in time ? ---


The stadiums are the most important. Six will already be operational for the Confederations Cup in June. But there have been delays. Only two were ready in December, which was the initial deadline, and the four others will be by the end of April.

We will have to conduct (FIFA) tests of the facilities in parallel rather than in sequences, but they will all be carried out. The same thing will happen for the 2014 World Cup. Every six months, we will take stock.

The big problem is the quality of the airports. The modernisation plan runs until 2018. But for 2014, they (airports) will operate well and military airports will be used to welcome officials and to park the planes. Foreign teams will be able to fly into both civilian and military airports.

--- How is the relationship with FIFA ? -----

We have been very firm in our negotiations with FIFA but we had to remain open because we want to ensure the success of the game.

The government had to be represented on the Organising Committee (COL). The relationship improved a lot as a result and FIFA has an interlocutor within the government. We have also managed to guarantee a 50 percent reduction in admission tickets for seniors (over 60 years of age) as established by Brazilian law."