Judge halts stadium construction in Brazil after worker falls to death

I’ve been trying to decide how often to report on Brazil’s $3.3 billion World Cup stadium-building frenzy — life is short, and there’s been so much other craziness to cover — but I think a judge halting construction work after a worker fell to his death certainly qualifies:

Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, 22, died Saturday after falling while helping install diamond shaped panels to the latticework of steel girders that form part of the stadium roof. Dozens of laborers were balanced on the girders as they worked. When complete, the panels on the roof are meant to resemble snake scales…

It was the second death at the Arena Amazonia this year and the third at a World Cup venue in less than a month.

A few hours after Saturday’s death, another worker died of a heart attack while paving an area outside the venue in Manaus.

Two workers were killed when a crane collapsed on Nov. 27 as it was hoisting a 500-ton piece of roofing at the Sao Paulo stadium that will host the World Cup opener. Last year, a worker died at the construction site of the stadium in the nation’s capital, Brasilia.

The first death at the Arena da Amazonia happened in March. Another worker died in April at the new Palmeiras stadium, which may be used for teams training in Sao Paulo.

Construction deaths are sadly not all that uncommon, but the rush to complete six new stadiums for next summer’s World Cup (and accompanying protests) has highlighted some of the problems of building on a tight timetable. Already none of new venues will be ready by the end of the year as planned; they’re still all expected to open in time for the actual World Cup in June, but it’s starting to get a bit dicey, especially now that construction workers at the stadium in Curitiba, the stadium furthest behind schedule, have gone on strike over late pay.

But hey, you can’t put a price on the free publicity from a World Cup, right?

Post-Thanksgivukkah stadium news roundup: Cubs beer sales, World Cup crane collapse, Vikings steel imbroglio

So it’s Thanksgivukkah+1, meaning that most of you are either sleeping off turkey latke comas or looking for Black Friday deals on smartphone-enabled Furbies. But there might be somebody sitting in an otherwise-empty office today scouring the web for things to read, so what to do? I know — bullet points, to cover some items that slipping through the cracks while we were focused on more urgent (or at least more bizarre) matters:

  • Chicago alderman Tom Tunney, the sometimes-nemesis of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ Wrigley Field renovation plans, has proposed a new “sports venue plaza liquor license” that would allow any sports stadium with a capacity of 30,000 or more — in other words, the Cubs, White Sox, or Bears — to sell alcohol in adjacent pedestrian plazas. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing or anything — given Wrigley’s small footprint, it wouldn’t hurt to get some of the beer-buying activity out of the baseball-watching part of the building — but it is a concession to the team, just as the Boston Red Sox‘ ability to use Yawkey Way for food sales is — and at the very least something you’d think the city could trade off with Ricketts in exchange for, say, not putting up illuminated ad archways over city streets. It also probably won’t make local bars too happy that Cubs fans will have more places to drink inside the park, but them’s the breaks.
  • Brazil’s much-beleaguered World Cup preparations got even more beleaguered on Wednesday when a crane collapsed at a stadium under construction in São Paolo, killing two workers and likely delaying the stadium’s opening until at least February. The World Cup doesn’t start until June, but still, the crane accident is only likely to exacerbate the cost overruns that have many Brazilians wondering why the hell anybody would want to host a World Cup anyway?
  • Construction is about to begin on the new $1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium, and former state representative who Tom Rukavina is upset that the structural steel will be imported from Europe instead of brought in from Minnesota’s Iron Range, as required “to the extent practicable” by a provision that Rukavina inserted in the stadium bill. Only problem: The Iron Range doesn’t actually directly produce structural steel. Anyway, the Gov. Mark Dayton has promised that Minnesota firms will be on the job fabricating parts from the steel, so everyone can rest easy about the project. Except for, you know, all the money it’s costing Minnesota taxpayers to create a few steel-fabricating jobs.

And that’s enough for now — if you really want to read Marcos Breton’s latest puff piece talking about how awesome the Sacramento Kings arena will be for downtown, do it on your own time. See you Monday.

Brazilian judge suggests turning World Cup stadium into prison facility

Remember how Brazil is building $3.3 billion in stadiums for next year’s World Cup, including some in cities that don’t even have soccer teams? Apparently one of them, a $275 million facility in the city of Manaus, only has four World Cup matches total scheduled, after which nobody knows what to do with it — or nobody did know, until a Brazilian judge had a brainstorm:

Alvaro Corado, spokesman for the Amazonas state court system, told The Associated Press Tuesday that Judge Sabino Marques had proposed a novel idea.

“He would, perhaps, suggest to the government of the state of Amazonas that the stadium be used as a processing center for prisoners after the World Cup,” Corado said, quoting Marques.

Yes, a “novel idea.” Because that’s not going to bring up any uncomfortable associations at all.

Anyway, it’s just a suggestion, but one that helps indicate what a train wreck the 2014 World Cup is shaping up to be. Though at least eight years later Brazil will be able to point at the 2022 World Cup and say that at least its white elephant stadiums weren’t built by indentured servants.

FIFA reassures Brazilians angry over hosting of World Cup that they’ll still host the World Cup

FIFA has finally responded to the massive protests that have rocked Brazil in the wake of the nation spending $3 billion on facilities for hosting next year’s World Cup. (Among other things.) And the world soccer body’s message is: Don’t worry, you’re still going to get to host the World Cup!

“The World Cup will be held in Brazil,” [FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke] told BBC Sport.

“The first game will happen in Sao Paulo, the final will be in Rio. There is no plan B.” …

“But the most important thing for us is to detach the World Cup or the Confederations Cup from these problems. We are not the answer to all problems and we are definitely not the reason for such a crisis. We are just part of what Brazil is doing for the next 20 years.”

Valcke then went on to praise Neymar. But not for his Instagram messages.

Things we missed during PoopGate

Just when things in the stadium and arena world seemed to be quieting down for the summer, we had a bit of a crazy week, thanks to all those sewage leaks and threats to move teams to various places. As a result, a few things fell through the cracks this week, so let’s catch up with a quick roundup post:

Brazilian stadium protestors tear-gassed, players issue Instagrams of support

How are those protests against Brazil’s $3 billion in World Cup stadium spending going, you ask? Really well in terms of turnout, less well in terms of not being tear-gassed by police:

That’s 35,000 people being chased off by police from the site of yesterday’s Brazil-Mexico soccer match, or almost as many people who have attended the first 57 matches at the new stadium built in Brasilia. The protestors are saying that the money would have been better spent on housing, hospitals, and schools; one held a sign reading “Brazil, let’s wake up, a teacher is worth more than Neymar,” which still didn’t stop the rising Brazilians superstar himself from sending a message of support for the demonstrators. Google translation for those who don’t speak Portuguese:

Sorry for everything that is happening in Brazil. I always had faith that it would not be necessary to reach the point of “take to the streets” to demand better conditions of transport, health, education and safety, this is all OBLIGATION government … My parents worked hard to be able to provide for me and my sister a minimum quality of life … Today, thanks to the success that you give me, it would seem my demagoguery – but is not – raise the banner of demonstrations taking place throughout Brazil. But I am Brazilian and I love my country! I have family and friends living in Brazil! So Brazil also want a fairer, safer, healthier and more HONEST!! The only way I have to represent and defend Brazil is on the field, playing ball … And from this game against Mexico, I take the field inspired by this mobilization … # TamoJunto

It really is like another country.

Now Brazil, there’s a place that knows how to throw a stadium protest

In the United States, when people are upset about money going to stadiums instead of schools and housing, they start a petition drive. In Brazil, meanwhile:

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — About 200 people burned tires and blocked the main road in front of the Brasilia stadium that will host the Confederations Cup opener Saturday.

The protest was organized by local groups complaining of excessive costs of the Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.

A black cloud of smoke was seen near the stadium Friday morning as protesters held banners complaining about the local government. Firefighters and police were called to the scene but there was no confrontation with protesters. The road was cleared early in the afternoon.

Protester Edson da Silva said the demonstrators opposed “all the money that was spent by the government” for the World Cup.

Not saying that’s a better way, mind you. Though it is worth noting that there’s no statutory limit on burning tires.

Brazil, if you’re scoring at home, is spending about $3.3 billion on new or refurbished stadiums for the World Cup, three of which are in cities that don’t even have major soccer clubs. The 71,000-seat Brasilia stadium has now held 57 matches and drawn fewer than 50,000 fans in total. Brazil is currently run by a leftist government that has been making good strides in reducing poverty, even establishing a stronger system of welfare payments — hey, another way it’s different from the U.S. — but this just goes to show that government subsidies to major sports organizations aren’t a left or a right thing, they’re a systemic “resist the power of the global sports-industrial complex at your peril” thing.