Just days before hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 draw, the city of Sao Paulo welcomed a delegation made up of representatives from FIFA, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ LOC Management Board and the Brazilian government.
The visiting officials were there to inspect the Arena de Sao Paulo, the venue for the Opening Match of the FIFA World Cup on 12 June 2014, when thousands of fans will flock to the stadium.
Comprising FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, LOC Management Board members Bebeto and Ronaldo and Brazilian Minister of Sport Aldo Rebelo, the delegation took the train from Luz railway station in the city centre, out to Corinthians-Itaquera station, which serves the Arena de Sao Paulo. The stadium is the last to be visited by Valcke on his tour this year of the 12 Brazil 2014 Host Cities.
“It’s incredible in a city this size to be able to travel from the centre to the stadium in just 19 minutes, like we did,” said Valcke in reference to his journey on Line 11 of the CPTM (Sao Paulo Metropolitan Rail Company) network. “Everything worked perfectly. It’s a great stadium too, and an amazing project overall. My congratulations to Sao Paulo.”
The group met up with a number of other dignitaries at the stadium, among them LOC Chairman Jose Maria Marin and Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab, and attended a meeting where the project was presented. A tour of the stadium site then followed.
“I’ve been to Itaquera a few times and I’m delighted to see just how much work has been done with a view to finishing the stadium by December 2013,” said a suitably impressed Rebelo. “Above all I’m pleased to see the progress that’s been made with the social projects, which have transformed the area around the stadium. I’m proud that we have a venue that will be up to the job of staging an event like the World Cup Opening Ceremony.”
Much more than a stadium
The fact that the Sao Paulo project has gone far beyond the building of the stadium was the talking point of the day. Consisting of urban mobility initiatives, new universities and a business park, the raft of improvements made in the suburb of Itaquera and the entire eastern side of Sao Paulo and its population of over four million is a clear example of the legacy that the FIFA World Cup can have for a major city.
“This is one of the biggest reasons why we should be proud of what we’re doing: the difference that the World Cup project can make to such a large area, one that has been asking for more in the way of development for a long time now,” commented Marin.
“Like the stadium, the new infrastructure projects across the whole eastern area are all on schedule,” added Kassab. “Quite apart from this amazing stadium for staging big games, those projects are another part of the legacy the event will leave the city.”
World champs wow the workers
As far as the stadium workers were concerned, the high point of the visit was the chance to see Ronaldo and Bebeto in person. And for the man they call O Fenômeno, the feeling was most definitely mutual: “This is the last stadium on our 2012 tour and it’s the most special one for me personally. It was here in Sao Paulo where I spent the final years of my playing career.”
To the delight of the watching workers, he added: “I know just how passionate this city is about football and how happy local people are to see all these projects in the area around the stadium.”
“This is the nicest bit about these visits,” said fellow world champion Bebeto. “You can see how much of a difference the World Cup makes to people’s lives and how proud these workers feel to be playing a part in this great party. And it makes you even happier to come here and see how the party is going to spread to other areas away from the stadium.”