No fewer than 824 matches are scheduled for the preliminary competition of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, with the equivalent of at least 74,160 minutes of football deciding which 31 nations will join hosts Brazil at the showpiece competition. Setting all this in motion will be Saturday’s Preliminary Draw in Rio de Janeiro, undoubtedly a giant step on the road to Brazil 2014.

Behind such a large-scale event is an equally vast infrastructure set up in the venue of Marina da Gloria, which is all ready to welcome the world football family. Involved in the prestigious event will be around 14 tonnes of equipment, more than 4,000 metres of cables, 200 hours of recording and editing video footage, as well as six lorries loaded with 20 metres of scenery material, all of which is backed up plenty of hard work. 

“All the planning for this event began over a year ago, when we received the list of requirements,” said Local Organising Committee director Joana Havelange. “We’ve been here at the Marina for some time now: we started setting up two months ago, and everyone’s been practically living here. We’re hoping to put on a great event, which makes Brazil proud of us and shows the world how ready we are to host the World Cup.”

Rio showcase
On Tuesday 26 July, Havelange, alongside FIFA’s Project Manager for the Preliminary Draw David Ausseil, the show’s director Aloysio Legey and TV director Luiz Gleizer, took journalists from across the globe on a tour of the complex’s facilities. The tour revealed a few intriguing tasters of what is to come from Saturday’s festivities, including the layout and spectacular setting of the main auditorium - which has been fittingly bedecked in green, blue and yellow.

“The stage, the performance space, which has been set up is really impressive in size,” said Gleizer, who boasts a wealth of professional experience from his time at television network Rede Globo. “We’re going to have moments of great Brazilian beauty. We’re going to showcase Rio and Brazil in new and very enticing ways, for the benefit of both Brazilian and international viewers.”

Up on the stage, the Preliminary Draw will be carried out in such a way that the entertainment and the drawing of the groups for the five qualifying zones go seamlessly hand-in-hand. “The first thing that came to mind when I was asked to help carry out this event was how to intertwine the draw itself with the various videos and musical acts,” said Legey.

“We want everything to come together to form a great show, which is enjoyable to watch and also provides plenty of information," he added. "Aside from that, I thought it was important that the Brazilian spirit - the way we are, what sets us apart - was included in the colours, the scenery, the musicians and the show as a whole. It was with that vision in mind that we’ve tried to guide the artistic part of the show.”

Planned precision
The vital sporting element of the evening, for its part, will follow a gradual and scrupulously planned process. “The number-one priority for the Preliminary Draw is a sporting criterion which is FIFA’s responsibility: to ensure the (qualifying) groups are evenly balanced,” said Ausseil. “The world’s six confederations are asked to send us their preferred format for their qualifying competitions. What FIFA does is to bring those formats and proposals together with the aim of coming up with a competitively balanced draw. All of that is designed to ensure that the 31 teams that do eventually make it here are in fact the best sides.

“However, when you’re putting on a show which has grown more spectacular since the 1994 draw, people expect more and more every time,” continued Ausseil. “So we do a lot of rehearsals to get an idea of how long the draw for each qualifying zone will take. We’ve also got a protocol to follow: we must explain how the draw works. It’s a complex event and everything has to be done accurately, which is of course what everyone expects of us. But at the same time it has to be fast and fun.”

The latter is certainly a key ingredient in the eagerly awaited proceedings, which are seen as a symbolic first step towards Brazil 2014. “The FIFA World Cup starts now, and the competition is going to last for two-and-a-half years,” concluded Ausseil. “There are so many people around the world who’d love to be here, especially football fans.”