FIFA Changing Fan Park Proposals as Protests Threaten World Cup

Soccer governing body FIFA is rejigging plans for this year’s $5 billion World Cup in Brazil in case there’s a repeat of the civil unrest that surrounded last year’s Confederations Cup, a warm-up for this year’s event.

Measures include switching the location of “Fan Fests,” outdoor screening areas where ticketless supporters can get together and watch games for free, FIFA’s General Secretary Jerome Valcke said.

More than 1 million people took to the streets in Brazil’s biggest demonstrations for a generation last June during the Confederation Cup. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets near all six venues in clashes with protesters. Demonstrators said public funds should be spent on education and health services rather than a sporting event.

Among the biggest potential flash points are the Fan Fests, zones usually festooned with the logos of corporate sponsors who last year paid FIFA $350 million to be associated with the competition. Some are likely be moved for security reasons, Valcke said yesterday.

“Following what has happened last June with all the demonstrations, and for security issues, we are always open to move from the first location to another location which is safer for security,” Valcke told reporters in Florianopolis, where managers of the 32 teams competing in the World Cup are gathering for a workshop.

Valcke said it’s already been decided to move the Fan Fest in the capital, Brasilia, where some of the most violent clashes occurred during the Confederations Cup.

“The Fan Fest will not be located where we were thinking but in a new place,” he said.

Coke Cover-Up

Some sponsors reduced their visibility during the Confederations Cup, while others were targeted by protesters. Coca-Cola Co. covered up a building featuring an oversize bottle of the soft drink situated across the road from Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium -- where the July 13 World Cup final will be played -- with black plastic.

A car dealership selling vehicles produced by Kia Motors Corp., part-owned by FIFA sponsor Hyundai Motor Co., was torched in Belo Horizonte. Sony Corp. said it took action to avoid its corporate guests being caught out in the protests, during which six people died.

Osama Miura, president of Sony’s Brazil unit, said in a December interview that plans will be drawn up should the demonstrations happen during the World Cup.

“If they do we will create some barriers from them,” he said.

Mass Disruption

Groups such as an anarchist movement known locally as the Black Bloc have already said they plan mass disruption during the tournament.

The city of Recife, one of 12 World Cup hosts, has said it will no longer pay to stage the Fan Fest. Valcke said FIFA won’t step in to pay for the 11 million-reais ($4.6 million) event, adding that Recife is contractually obliged to arrange it.

“We can discuss about a number of things but when it’s a financial commitment why should we take over?” the Frenchman said. “There’s no reason. It is a deal which was signed years ago.”

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