Things are not boding well for Rio’s hosting of the World Cup 2014 and the Olypics 2016. Reportedly, Rio has had to close one of its largest sports stadiums, due to an inherent structural weakness in its roof. A good call on the part of the city officials, I think, until the problem is resolved, but a bad omen for preparations for the two biggest sports events to put Rio on the world stage this decade.

Stadium Troubles

The Joao Havelange stadium in Rio de Janeiro was built only six years ago, and has been the city’s main futbol stadium while the city’s Maracana stadium is being renovated for next year’s World Cup. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, was informed about the issues on Tuesday, and when he found out they posed a potential danger to spectators, immediately decided to close the stadium. Paes vowed to punish those responsible for the sloppy construction job on the stadium. But where would he begin?

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Rio authorities have also acknowledged delays in work on the Maracana stadium, which is set to host the opening match at the World Cup. The city’s second-largest sports stadium, the Maracana, is currently under renovation, but is woefully behind schedule and is bleeding money.

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Can they be ready in time? That’s the question being asked around the world, and here in Sao Paulo, the locals shake their heads doubtfully. True, Beijing appeared to be headed for disaster, but the Chinese were able to pull things together at the last minute and host a publicly successful Olympics. But, say Brazilians, the work ethic in China (perhaps compulsory work ethic) is vastly different from that here in Brazil.

Crumbling Infrastructure

One of the greatest problems they face in Rio is the crumbling infrastructure, where “decades of neglect and almost nonexistent urban planning, lax oversight and institutionalized corruption, … could spell disaster at the World Cup or Olympics.”

“Aging natural gas pipelines crisscross the subterranean network of electricity lines, a dangerously combustible mix thought to explain a rash of exploding manholes” in the city in the past couple of years.

Those are manmade disasters, but there’s also Mother Nature to consider. Rio is a city of immense downpours, sufficient to turn many thoroughfares into rushing rivers, including the area around Maracana stadium, the jewel in the 2014 World Cup crown and venue for the opening of the Olympics.

World Youth Day 2013

I am afraid that one huge test of Rio’s capabilities and preparation will come this summer when Rio hosts one million youth and young adults at the Catholic World Youth Day, certain to have hundreds of thousands more attendees now that Pope Francis of Argentina will be coming. Given my experiences with crowds and the shut-down of the lauded German transportation system during the Cologne World Youth Day 2005 (shown below; those are people in the boxes, 1 million of us), I cringe to think what these young people will face in Rio.

Can they pull it together? God knows, and He ain’t tellin’.