Before any major tournament, there is always heightened media panic about lack of preparation or unsuitable local conditions.
Before the Beijing Olympics, it was smog that threatened to derail the Games.
Prior to the 2010 World Cup, folks were worried about South African crime rates.
At the Sochi Winter Games, a double toilet was all over the news.
Ultimately, however, all these “issues” were quickly forgotten when the tournaments got underway.
Naturally, as the 2014 World Cup approaches, there has been plenty of anxiety disseminated through the newspapers concerning the multitude of dangers posed to half a million fans who are expected to descend upon Brazil.
Here’s a guide to some of the dangers—some more prevalent than others—in Brazil ahead of the World Cup…
One of the biggest concerns for foreigners visiting the World Cup host nation is their safety from street gangs and violent crime.
In an article titled “Headed to Rio World Cup? Leave the Gold Necklace at Home,” Bloomberg recently pointed out that there were 37,412 muggings in Rio last year, which is double the amount of New York City and Mexico City, despite a smaller population.
Having one’s phone and wallet stolen may not sound too deadly, but the frequency with which robberies turn fatal when victims do not comply.
In fact, the Brazilian authorities have even warned incoming fans not to scream or argue when (not “if”) they are robbed to avoid provoking the assailants. They even have a word for when robbery escalates into murder: “latrocinios.”
Many column inches have been devoted to the Manaus venue that will host England’s opener with Italy. The climate will be challenging for the players, the Amazon city is quite difficult to get to and there are concerns of tropical diseases.
However, one unusual hazard for fans heading to the Arena da Amazonia is quicksand. Yes, quicksand. According to The Sun (subscription required), a popular beach near the venue has killed 17 locals in the past two years.
Dengue is a viral infection carried by mosquitoes that can quickly become life-threatening for carriers.
According to The Guardian, there were 1.4 million cases of dengue fever in Brazil last year, while host city Sao Paolo suffered a major outbreak earlier this month. Natal, Fortaleza and Recife are also areas in which the infection has been prevalent.
Sadly, there is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever, but those travelling to affected areas are advised to wear mosquito repellent and take advantage of areas with air-conditioning systems.
According to the Daily Mail, England players have been vaccinated against rabies. The disease is apparently spread around Brazil by dogs, marmoset monkeys and something genuinely called “vampire bats.”
Perhaps fans heading to Manaus should also pack some stakes and cloves of garlic.
Those travelling to Brazil will likely need immunisation against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid. In Amazonian and sparsely populated areas—including Manaus and Cuiaba—there is also risk of malaria and yellow fever.
Yellow fever is also carried by mosquitoes and can cause fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea and muscle pains. According to the Canadian National Post, it kills around 7 per cent of patients.
It isn’t considered a risk in the coastal cities, but a vaccination is recommended for all fans heading to inland venues.
With a little over two weeks until the World Cup begins, Sao Paulo’s eternally delayed Itaquerao stadium has still not been deemed safe for use, as per The Guardian.
The venues in Curitiba and Cuiaba, meanwhile, have been given the green light, but facilities and transport links are nowhere near being completed.
A total of eight construction workers have been killed while building the new stadia, including three workers in two separate incidents at the Itaquerao stadium, which will host the opening game.
Fears about the safety of the venues have also been raised by a leaking roof at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia—the most expensive of all the stadia—and a recent fence collapse at the Arena do Gremio (which, to be fair, isn’t actually being used in the tournament).
Brazil’s serious problems with drug cartels controlling favelas are well documented. Last year, for example, a former professional footballer was decapitated by drug lords, with his head left in a sack on his doorstep for his wife to discover.
Amid the protestation of the Confederations Cup, the Daily Mail warned that the drug wars would spill into the streets during the tournament. It reported that Brazil’s biggest drug cartel, the First Capital Command in Sao Paulo, had promised a “World Cup of terror.”
The U.S. State Department, via The Independent, has also warned of “incarcerated drug lords” whose efforts to “exert their power outside of their jail cells have resulted in sporadic disruptions in the city, violence directed at the authorities, bus burnings, and vandalism at ATM machines, including the use of explosives.” Which doesn’t sound like fun.