Now as then, the fans' desperation to see games is matched only
by the authorities' inability to build stadiums on time and under
This year's tournament will be held across 12 cities in June and
July and will cost at least 28 billion reais ($12.32 billion),
almost a third of which will go on luxurious new or modernised
Three of the 12 arenas – in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and the Maracana in
Rio de Janeiro - will cost more than 1 billion reais each, and yet
only two of the 12 were delivered on time.
The 1950 matches were played at just six grounds, including the
Maracana, which was built in less than two years at a cost of 430
million reais in today's money, said Diego Salgado, co-author of the
book, "1950: The Price of a World Cup."
More than 90 percent of the entire budget for the 1950 tournament
went on that one stadium, Salgado said. Authorities delayed years
before starting construction work and then went over budget.
"It's been 64 years but we're seeing a rerun of what happened back
then," Salgado told Reuters.
"The costs rose because it was urgent. The first game to be played
at the Maracana was played seven days before the first game of the
Brazil had not yet won football's greatest trophy in 1950 but has
since established itself as the dominant power, winning the World
Cup a record five times. Fans the world over celebrated in 2007 when
the South American giant won the right to host the 2014 tournament.
Brazil's politicians vowed it would be a golden opportunity for the
developing nation to add much needed infrastructure but with days to
go until the opening match, much of the promised works have not
In 1950, as now, Brazil saw the World Cup as a chance to show off to
the world, said David Goldblatt, author of the book, "Futebol
Nation: The Story of Brazil through Soccer."
The country was modernising quickly and seeking more of a global
presence. And, then as now, there were elections taking place
following the tournament with politicians seeing it as a chance to
While Brazil's traditionally chaotic planning has embarrassed even
Cup backers like former striker Ronaldo, who has two winners'
medals, it has not affected demand.
Around 3 million tickets have been sold for this year's tournament
and close to 800,000 people are expected to come from abroad to
They will see a spectacle that is unrecognisable to the one held
here more than half a century ago.
Back then only two of the grounds were built specially for the
tournament and they were considered progress, fitting monuments both
to the game that had taken Brazil by storm and to the country's
pretensions of grandeur.
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The Maracana was finished so late that English referee Arthur Ellis
reported plaster falling from the walls when a 21-gun salute went
off and a Yugoslav player cut his head on an exposed steel beam,
"On the other hand I look at the Maracana and it was a much more
generous vision than the vision today," he added. "As well as the
football stadium they built other stuff. The athletics track and
swimming pool were intended for public use and the school as well."
And although only 13 teams took part, compared to 32 today, interest
was high. Football was already a religion in Brazil and the average
attendance for the 22 games was 47,511, still more than at all but
seven of the 19 World Cups.
Today the tournament is massive. There were more than 800 qualifying
matches for 2014, compared to just 27 for the 1950 Cup.
FIFA has budgeted for $3.8 billion in revenues during the period
2011-14, with around 85-90 percent of that coming from the World
Cup, according to official figures. Roughly 60 percent is from TV
deals and the rest comes from sponsors, licensing and hospitality
rights, FIFA said.
In 1950 there were no major sponsors of any kind and no live TV
coverage because outside broadcasts had not been invented. The Jules
Rimet trophy was placed in the window of a Rio jewelers for fans to
This year the Original FIFA World Cup™ Trophy – it has no name but
it is trademarked - will spend 267 days traveling to 88 different
countries so fans can catch a glimpse of it behind a glass screen.
Perhaps the biggest similarity between the two tournaments is the
home nation's desire to win. In 1950, Brazil fell to Uruguay at the
final hurdle and the defeat was so catastrophic that people are
still talking about it.
They are hoping for a different ending this time.
"There's been a black cloud hanging over the Maracana ever since
that game," Amarildo, a striker who played for Brazil at the 1962
World Cup and who remembers the 1950 defeat as a nine-year old boy,
"The only way it will be lifted is if we win the final this time."
(Editing by Alan Baldwin)
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