Towering inferno: Brazil nightclub fire douses FIFA ball

International soccer body dismisses links between the tragedy in Santa Maria and concerns about the World Cup.

Updated: January 29, 2013 13:37 IST
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New Delhi: International football federation’s plans to celebrate the 500 days to go until the 2014 World Cup were scrapped in the wake of the deadly nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people in southern Brazil on Sunday. FIFA called off an event on Monday in Brasilia, as the country mourned the horrifying deaths. Despite the tragic incident, FIFA has maintained it is confident in Brazil's security plans for the World Cup.

The unveiling of the official World Cup poster was scheduled for Monday but also was postponed. The poster will be unveiled Wednesday after a meeting of the local organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro.

Interestingly, the nightclub tragedy coincided with FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke’s four-day visit to Brazil starting Sunday. Valcke is scheduled to visit Fortaleza, Brasilia, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro in the center and north of the country.

Santa Maria, where the fire took place, is about 155 miles from Porto Alegre, one of the 12 World Cup host cities, in the same state of Rio Grande do Sul. The nightclub fire, which appeared to be the world's deadliest in more than a decade, is likely to again increase scrutiny of safety efforts ahead of the World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

FIFA reiterated its belief that the local organizing committees and Brazilian city, state and federal agencies are up to the task. "FIFA has full confidence in the security plans of the LOC and the local authorities," soccer's governing body said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee said that "we simply send our sympathies to friends and families."

Hosting the World Cup and Olympics two years apart has heightened attention on security and crime issues in Brazil, although the discussion has focused possible violence, reports Fox Sports. South Africa's relatively high rates of violent crime were similarly scrutinized before the 2010 World Cup, but that tournament was held without major incident.

Officials say the tragedy should not raise worries over preparations for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Local authorities argue that Brazil is used to large crowds at events strict security standards will be adopted.

In a video released by the government's World Cup Committee, Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said South America's largest country was ready to host the tournament, pointing towards its experience in organising the annual carnival celebrations.

Padilha says at least three of the cities that will host World Cup matches - Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife - attract up to 600,000 tourists during each carnival. "So we already are very experienced on how to mount an emergency response," he said.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo told reporters: "Brazil is used to hosting major events with high standards of safety and organisation. One accident, no matter how horrible, will not change the country's global image."

FIFA has also dismissed links between the tragedy in Santa Maria and concerns about the World Cup, the biggest single sporting spectacle. Valcke said the fire in the night club "has nothing to do with the security in stadiums during the Confederations Cup (in June 2013) and the World Cup".

The 12 stadiums that will host the FIFA World Cup games are either being constructed or overhauled. Local officials feel the fire will act like a wake-up call and will "naturally add extra care" to the planning process.
Tragedies are not uncommon at sporting venues.

In 2007, seven people died and 30 were injured in a stadium in Salvador in Bahia after part of the building's structure came tumbling down. They fell from a height of 20m.

The stadium is now being overhauled and will host some of the World Cup matches. In 2000, in a stadium in Rio, 150 fans were injured when a fence collapsed during a stampede.

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