At no other time is the ability of any nation’s construction industry to deliver huge infrastructure projects on time and within budget under more scrutiny than during the lead up to hosting major sporting events.
As it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014, Brazil is no exception.
Should all major projects be finished on time and without incident, both the country as a whole and its construction industry in particular will gain admiration and respect throughout the world – as was the case with South Africa in 2010. If not, it may suffer some of the embarrassments similar to India when it hosted the Commonwealth Games last year.
But will Brazil be ready?
Certainly, the country is trying. All in all, it is investing BRL 27 billion ($US 13.6 billion) of private and public funds across 101 projects covering new stadiums/existing stadium upgrades, airports, ports, road and rail infrastructure.
Moreover, the country’s Minister for Planning, Miriam Belchior, is giving public assurances of all developments being finished on time. Resources for projects in host cities have been guaranteed, she says, and all projects were chosen with care.
Yet they had better get a move on. The latest update from the Ministry of Sport says that of the 101 projects Brazil aims to complete before the Cup, 40 remain in the planning stage and 55 remain under construction.
Moreover, the planned modernisation of the county’s ports is ‘clearly lacking’, as a recent article in Access International magazine put it. Of the seven ports under development, two projects are still at the stage of tendering whilst one remains stuck in the design phase (four more are under construction).
Timeframes for airport completions, too, look tight. Of 31 separate projects to modernise 13 of Brazil’s airports, 13 are under construction and five are complete, leaving 13 more with regard to which construction has not yet began.
To be sure, the situation is not so bad in other areas. Construction of twelve new stadiums, for example, is on track: six are set to be finished this year or early next year and another six are scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. In urban transport, too, the ministry says that 80% of the 51 projects road and rail projects are set to be finished by the end of next year.
Furthermore, the government says that of the entire 101 projects related to the Cup, all but 17 are set for completion by the end of next year, meaning that the majority should be finished with a degree of leeway before the Cup starts.
Still, with 40 projects not yet started, some of the deadlines for these projects are starting to look tight. And given previous setbacks associated with building collapses and persistent media talk of projects running behind schedule, the pressure is on.
Hopefully, the government’s assurances regarding completion of World Cup projects will prove to be right and Brazil’s construction industry will win respect and admiration around the world.
If not, like India in 2011, the country will have a lot of egg on its face.
Whatever happens, the world will be watching.