Brazil's sports minister attempted to allay fears of violence harming next summer's World Cup by saying that the authorities were working hard "to contain this violence", that the main areas where fans congregated would be safe, and that other countries also suffered from violence. "The issue of violence, we know it exists,'' said Aldo Rebelo.
"We do not have the same safety conditions on the streets as in European cities. But the airports, bus stations and subways will be safer than any other environment in the US or Europe. "Sometimes we have specific vulnerabilities and demonstrations of violence but it is not just Brazil - we live in a world full of problems. The only time I was robbed was at an airport in Paris. The president of the Olympic Public Authority was robbed in front of a hotel in London. It seems that violence is only supposed to happen in Rio, Sao Paulo and Salvador. "We do have cases of violence in our cities, violence with social origins, common crime, robberies. This is a horrible fact. We are trying to contain this violence. We know our country may be harmed when this violence is seen by the world - as would any country where violence exists."
The focus on the potential negatives of the 2014 World Cup will slightly switch when the group-stage draw takes place here tomorrow (Friday). Then the talk will be of the players, of where Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney will be parading their skills. But as well as fears of violence, the build-up to the World Cup has been beset by protesters campaigning about socio-economic issues. Around a million people took to the streets during last summer's Confederations Cup with grievances also focused on estimates of the transformation of 12 stadiums rising threefold to approximately 3 billion pounds.
The choice of the five-star resort of secluded, expensive Costa do Sauipe for the draw will doubtless confirm the views of protesters that the World Cup is not for ordinary Brazilians. It is pure Fifa-ville, Zurich with sea turtles, a world away from the Brazil inhabited by the protesters. The cost of the group-stage draw event touches pounds 8?million. In terms of tackling any disorder next summer, Brazil's police force has been taking advice from the French riot control force while Fifa has employed the former deputy commissioner of the South Africa Police Service, Andre Pruis. Protesters will be met with rubber bullets.
"If crowds get violent, do you think a water cannon is going to disperse them?" said Pruis. "You have to disperse them. A rubber bullet is a low level of action. It hurts, but what are police going to do? Use a peashooter? Or water cannons? It doesn't work up to a point." Pruis insisted that England players would be able to wander from their Golden Tulip hotel in Rio as they did in Krakow at Euro 2012. "It will not be a problem," he said. There will be an additional security cordon to keep any demonstrations further away from stadiums than at the Confederations Cup. "We had the opportunity for very intensive public security testing during the Confederations Cup,'' said Andre Rodrigues, the special adviser for major events at the Ministry of Justice.
"More than 55,000 public professionals had to be deployed. Not a single person died and there were no serious casualties. No matches were disrupted and the event went ahead as planned. "People are free to democratically voice their views and demonstrate. We live in a democratic country after all. We try to deter any violent demonstrations or violent actions.'' Fans who misbehave will be fast-tracked through special World Cup courts. Organisers also addressed concerns about whether the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Curitiba's Arena da Baixada and Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal will be handed over in time. During a presentation by representatives from host cities, there was hilarity in the auditorium when the man from Curitiba failed to turn up in time. "I've been to many weddings in my life and at 100 per cent of those weddings, the bride arrived late,'' said Rebelo.
"I've never seen a bride arrive on time but never seen the wedding not take place because of that. There have been one or two delays but they are not significant. What matters is that the stadia will be delivered in January.'' Yesterday's glossy presentations inevitably avoided pictures of the favelas which seemed to have been airbrushed out of the image being presented to the world. The 2014 World Cup should be a celebration of a passion for football. It is the kid in the (fake) Neymar Barcelona shirt walking down a rutted side-street in Rio. It is the motorcyclist tearing past in a Totti No10 Roma shirt (he was going too fast to see if it was authentic).
Football everywhere. The country is obsessed with the game which makes the current tension, threatening the spectacle, so disconcerting. The presentations were still breathtaking, particularly the one from Manaus and its parading of the Amazon's beauty. If Roy Hodgson's worst fears are realised, and England are sent into the jungle, at least the fans will experience quite an adventure, assuming they can sort out travel and accommodation problems.
The England band face having their instruments confiscated, though. Fifa indicated that local Samba drums and other instruments would be banned from stadiums. "Brazil doesn't need instruments to enhance the atmosphere in the stadium in a country that lives for football," said the governing body's Ron DelMont.