FIFA World Cup Construction Turns Deadly Again


The FIFA World Cup in Brazil has come under international scrutiny again as construction on the match venues turns deadly once again. The most recent accident occurred on Saturday at the Estadio Amazonia, in Manaus, and resulted in the death of construction worker Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira. Ferreira was rushed to the hospital after falling more than 100 feet onto the concrete. He died of his injuries there in the hospital not long after arriving. His is the fifth death to occur during the construction of FIFA venues in Brazil.

The stadium in Manaus was reported to be delayed, but close to meeting the December 31st deadline set by FIFA when the accident occurred. Delays have been laid at the feet of the local weather primarily, combined with the challenges associated with attempting to build a “green” stadium. The stadium, being built on top of the site where another stood and was torn down in 2009, was reported to be re-using 95 percent of the materials from the original structure. The stadium features an ambitious design that is reminiscent of the “bird nest” stadium showcased at the Beijing Olympics.

Intended to give the impression of a basket weave, some have suggested that the architects were hoping that the aesthetics would distract attention from the extreme weather conditions in the region. For those teams drawn to play there, including the US, that has not proven to be the case. Players and media members alike have criticized the choice by FIFA officials to accept Manaus as a host city. A lot of time has been spent discussing the heat, humidity, and frequent thunderstorms characteristic of the area since the draw last Friday.

With Manaus being 9000 miles away from most of the other venues, travel concerns have added to the criticisms of the stadium. After Saturday’s accident, world attention once again turned to the deadly trend on FIFA World Cup construction sites in Brazil. It seems unlikely that the embattled venue will be able to remain out of the eye of the media until it is completed.

Just a couple of weeks ago, on November 27th, two workers were killed in an accident on the site of the venue scheduled to host the Cup opener in Sao Paulo. The Arena de Sao Paulo, like the Estadio Amazonia, had been nearly complete before the accident that set the timetable back.  The accident in Manaus did no damage to the actual stadium, and has therefore not compromised the timetable for completion.

Sao Paulo is a different story. The section of roofing that dropped onto the two workers and killed them  also caused considerable damage to portions of the structure. At this point, Sao Paulo has become one of the venues that are of most concern to FIFA officials with respect to meeting the timetable which has been set. It is unlikely that the stadium has been delayed to the point where it will not be ready for the opener on June 12th, but it will make staging the two “warm-up” events that FIFA requests to optimize operational efficiency before the tournament a difficult proposition.

Although FIFA representatives publicly downplay the construction delays, the fact remains that six of the venues scheduled to host Cup play still remain unfinished. It seems likely that oversight will be stepped up considerably in an attempt to advance the timetable more rapidly than has been the case. In addition, steps will undoubtedly be taken at all venues to make sure that the FIFA World Cup construction projects do not turn deadly again.

By Jim Malone