Monday, 31 December 2012

First Stadium Opens in Brazil

Brazil have taken an enormous step to realising their 2014 World Cup ambitions after the first of 12 new stadiums was announced open this week.

The Castelao Arena, in the city of Fortaleza, was inaugurated in an opening ceremony attended by President Dilma Rousseff. The project comes in on schedule and cost an approximate £153.5m to fully renovate a 40-year-old stadium, which has hosted international matches since the 1980s.

It was all smiles and laughter at the opening ceremony and the President used the opportunity to congratulate Brazil’s capability of achieving success both on the football field and in building stadiums, yet there are still major concerns some projects will not be finished.

The Maracana Stadium – Brazil’s historic arena that will host the World Cup final in 2014 – is slightly behind schedule, while the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus is still very much a construction site.

Meanwhile FIFA general secretary, Jerome Valcke, recently claimed one of Brazil’s host cities has just 17,000 hotel rooms for a 45,000-seater stadium, while a report by the Brazil Audits Office claimed a multi-million-pound rail infrastructure project in another city would not be complete until after the World Cup.

However, many Brazilians will claim this is just scaremongering from the media and tactics by FIFA to get the government into more decisive action. The Castelao Arena’s completion proves Brazil is on track and just about on budget to host football’s largest tournament in 18 months’ time.

Granted, there is still work to do and the Castelao itself looks bare without the billboards, flags and vibrant supporters that will eventually fill its terraces. But faith should be put in Brazil to host a successful World Cup. South Africa did it in 2010 despite greater pressures from the international community, so there is no reason to believe Brazil cannot better that success.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

Fan ‘hubs’ a great idea for Euro 2020

The growing positivity behind a continent-wide Euro 2020 must please UEFA president Michel Platini, who received much criticism for the idea just a year ago.

Platini was branded a moron by many experts and pundits for his apparent ‘out of touch’ comments about a Europe-wide tournament. Yet after the infrastructure and financial problems that surrounded Euro 2012 last summer, in which hotel rooms were being sold at almost £500 a night in the major cities, his novel Euro 2020 idea has drawn wider acceptance.

On Thursday UEFA confirmed it would stage a continental European Championships and invites national football associations to bid for host city status. The English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish FAs are all interested, and if they join together could all stage games should a ‘hub’ idea prove desirable.

For these four FAs could act as a northern ‘hub’ for Euro 2020, with four-stadium hubs in the west and the east making the tournament accessible for all fans. The distance between Wembley, Hampden Park, the Millennium Stadium and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium is far shorter than, say, Paris, London, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

A northern hub on the British Isles and Ireland would work wonders for Euro 2020, giving fans the safety and accessibility of movement while also offering four countries the chance to stage games.
In the west we could see Barcelona, Marseilles, Rome and Milan form a hub, while the east could boast Berlin, Warsaw, Prague and Vienna.

Granted, these names are pulled out of thin air and UEFA’s decision on host cities will be far more detailed and considered, yet the idea of hub areas should not be dismissed. The point of Euro 2020 is to improve the fan experience and bring Europe together; many punters in the betting world would rather they join a hub, rather than single host city miles from anywhere, to mingle with the multitude of crowds.

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