Brazil's Transportation Infrastructure World Cup to-do

Brazil’s World Cup To-Do List

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 4, 2014    •    1159 Views

Preparing its transportation infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Brazil has one giant to-do list. In the air and on the ground, it has the participants, the officials and the fans that have to be moved around.

Curious about Brazil, I went to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) infrastructure ranking for 2013-2014. At 114 out of 148 countries, Brazil’s numbers were not so good. Switzerland was #1, the US #19 and Angola last at #148.

WEF ranking was based on a 1 to 7 scale. The lowest score, a “1” represented extreme underdevelopment. The highest score, “7,” reflected optimal efficiency and world class status. 148 countries were ranked.

You can see that Brazil’s scores (3rd column) and her rank for each infrastructure variable (4th column) were low.

Brazil's Transportation Infrastructure Grades WEF 2013-2014

From: Global Competitiveness Report/WEF, p. 135.

To upgrade her infrastructure, Brazil’s “to-do list” includes a massive road overhaul and new ports. Between São Paulo and Rio, rapid transit will be built. In Rio where they cannot afford the extra rapid transit, they purchased new buses. In São Paulo, they need a dependable link from downtown to the airport. Located outside Rio, the new Olympic Park needs to be connected to the city.

Ranked 123 out of 148 countries, Brazil’s air transport infrastructure will have difficulty meeting demand. Already facing overcapacity, airports will play a central role in moving people among the 12 World Cup host cities. You can imagine though the countless variables that expansion involves. There is the passenger space in terminals, parking spaces outside, and flight logistics like allocating time slots during which planes can land. Furthermore, Brazil does not have back-up rail or bus systems and its roads are problematic. 

When Brazil plays Mexico in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, for example, close to 100 flights will need to arrive and depart during the same day. However, Avianca Brasil’s CEO said, “You don’t have room at the airport for even half those planes.” In addition, they have said that terminal construction delays will necessitate a makeshift canvas set-up. 

Thinking of Brazil’s infrastructure “to-do list” returns me to the US. Built during the 19th century, a road, canal and railroad network gradually moved across the continental US. Mostly, Adam Smith’s invisible hand created the “to-do list.”

Sources and Resources: H/T to Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist for referring to Brazil’s World Cup preparation as a “to-do list.” Meanwhile, the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report and articles from and the BBC provided more specific information. Finally, we will save for the future a discussion of the stadium work that needs to be done, the obstacles Brazil faces and the impact of mega events on the Brazilian economy.



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