WORLD

Painting the town green and yellow

No one does World Cup preparations quite like the Brazilians

ISABEL VINCENT June 12 2006
WORLD

Painting the town green and yellow

No one does World Cup preparations quite like the Brazilians

ISABEL VINCENT June 12 2006

Painting the town green and yellow

No one does World Cup preparations quite like the Brazilians

ISABEL VINCENT

Sergio Henrique de Almedia is on vacation from Telemar, Rio de Janeiro’s local phone company, where he works as an administrator. But two weeks before Brazil takes on Croatia (June 13) in its first official World Cup match, he is busier than ever. “I always take holidays when Brazil is in the World Cup, but I have so much to do this time,” says de Almeida as he supervises a group of street children and other workers decorating his Copacabana street in yellow, green and blue banners—the colours of the Brazilian flag—for the tournament that begins in Germany this week. The night before, de Almeida,

41, coordinated the painting of the manhole covers and concrete benches in the centre of Inhanga Street.

(“We didn’t want to risk anyone stepping on the fresh paint during the day,” he says.) He and local merchants plan to set up a giant TV screen in their square so residents can watch when the Brazilian team is playing.

Such preparations are taking place in neighbourhoods throughout the country as Brazilians prepare for an event that, for many, is much bigger than the annual Carnaval celebrations. Sales ofTV sets have risen more than 30 per cent. Stores are crammed with paraphernalia. Tic Tac has issued yellow and green mints, and McDonald’s has named its hamburgers after the countries taking part in the tournament. One beauty salon is offering a special on manicures and pedicures featuring designs in green and yellow.

Brazil, whose national team has won the World Cup a record five times, comes to a

virtual standstill during World Cup. Last month, Rio city workers learned that during the height of the action (June 13 to 22), they would only be obliged to work half days so they can watch the matches. “If the city didn’t do this, no one would come to work,” says Marisa, who works in city hall’s marketing department. “This town shuts down if Brazil is playing. People are glued to their televisions.”

Newspapers have been publishing pullout sections on the preparations, reporting from the Brazilian training camp in Weggis, on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. When Brazil played a warm-up match against the local club last week, there were lineups of patrons at bars where TV screens had been set up for the game (Brazil won the match, 8-0). In addition to reports of eager Brazilian fans interrupting the training sessions to swarm Ronaldinho Gaucho, there was controversy about whether star player Ronaldo is out of shape following a recent leg injury. “They’re calling me fat?” said Ronaldo at a press conference. “I treat it as a joke,” he said. “It’s for

lack of something else to say—I had a minor injury and I haven’t played for 45 days. It’s just ridiculous.”

Even the Qatar-based Arabic-language satellite network Al-Jazeera got caught up in the Brazilian frenzy. It has posted correspondent Jabalí Djamed to Switzerland to follow the team’s preparations. Djamed, who works for a network more familiar with covering Middle East conflicts than Brazilian soccer stars, noted in an interview with 0 Globo newspaper that “the war that is the most interesting to the Arab world right now is that of the Brazilian team for a sixth World Cup championship in Germany. This is now the biggest news in the world.” M