x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Recife’s rain on Brazil’s parade

Nasty weather casts a cloud over World Cup venue.

People attempt to make their way through a flooded avenue after a torrential rain in Recife, Brazil, on Thursday during the 2014 World Cup. Patrik Stollarz / AFP / June 26, 2014
People attempt to make their way through a flooded avenue after a torrential rain in Recife, Brazil, on Thursday during the 2014 World Cup. Patrik Stollarz / AFP / June 26, 2014

RECIFE // The north-east Brazilian city of Recife is the shark attack capital of the world. Yet the new English-language signs that have been erected along the beachfront make no mention of the fact you might have to keep an eye out for finned foes on the streets as well as in the sea.

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Torrential rains flooded this coastal metropolis on Thursday, rendering redundant any questions about why its sobriquet is “the Venice of Brazil”.

More than 25 per cent of the city’s monthly average rainfall fell overnight, leaving some roads under more than 50 centimetres of water and playing havoc with the local transport system.

The Arena Pernambuco, which hosted Germany’s tie with the United States, sits about 30 kilometres out of town and cost more than R$600 million (Dh1 billion).

On Thursday, with surrounding roads flooded, the team buses were forced to consider alternative routes to the venue. An ark would have been the most suitable option.

Fans, many of whom were travelling by taxi, were seen abandoning ship and embarking upon a long, wet walk. Hourly shuttle buses employed by Fifa to transport media to the stadium failed to show, presumably stuck in either traffic or torrents. By the time kick-off arrived at 1pm local time (8pm UAE), thousands were still to take their seats. Yet Fifa refused to delay the start of the match.

Postponing kickoff would have affected television schedules around the world and would also have forced a delay in the Portugal versus Ghana match as both Group G games had to begin simultaneously.

But it would have allowed spectators, many of whom had travelled thousands of kilometres from the United States and Germany, the chance to support their country.

To my mind, there is little reason why the game should not have started later. The fans, often referred to as a team’s 12th man, should be the priority always.

Broadcasters pay large sums for television rights because large volumes of people want to watch the action.

Presumably, these same large volumes would not protest too vehemently if the pre-game build-up was extended.

Likewise, scheduling exceptions are made when games can potentially go to extra-time, so that cannot be an excuse either.

Of course, such a situation might have been avoided entirely in Recife had public money been more wisely invested.

A drainage system was installed at the stadium to ensure the pitch would remain playable regardless of rains, but evidently no such concern was given to the city.

Many of the pavements in the affluent Boa Viagem area remain potholed, with some featuring broken paving and others displaying open manholes.

Those people determined enough to traverse the flooded streets understandably had to be extra cautious.

If the protesters who took to those same streets last year needed to illustrate reasons for their discontent, such chaos – sparked by rains described by locals as “an annual occurrence” – provided a perfect case study.

When the stadium’s deadline approached last year, additional money was procured to take the total spend over the initial budget.

Yet despite the city’s infrastructure remaining seriously – dangerously – inadequate, money has not been found to sufficiently improve the lives of the residents.

At risk of sounding facetious, something seems fishy. Perhaps sharks have always been present on the streets here – they are merely disguised in business attire.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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