Her back to the Copacabana shoreline, camera in hand, 44-year-old Italian teacher Angelica Poeta prepares to take a holiday snap of her daughter Mariana in Rio de Janeiro. But for once, Brazil’s most famous beach is forced to take a backseat, with the family from Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state instead focusing on a piece of installation artwork located in front of Avenida Atlantica, which bears the official logo of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
“It’s really cool to see a World Cup atmosphere beginning to build in Brazil,” said Angelica, who is making the most of the school holidays to spend a week in Rio. “It seems like there’s still a long way to go, but actually it’s almost upon us already. Wherever we look, we see some World Cup symbol or other. Us Brazilians are used to spending a month totally wrapped up in the World Cup, but this time around we’re going to have the chance to really savour the event, that’s going to feel much more personal, for the next three years.”
With the competition’s official logo already catching the eye of football fans in one of Rio’s most iconic picture postcard spots, another of the city’s popular tourist destinations is preparing to host the first major event on the road to the FIFA World Cup. Indeed, Saturday’s hosting of the Preliminary Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, which will soon define the route national teams must take to stay in the running for the most coveted trophy on Planet Football, has changed the face of the Marina da Gloria.
For the past two months, a megastructure has been set up at the marina to host a huge show featuring musicians, performers and footballing big names from Brazil and across the globe. The sheer scale of the event has caught many people by surprise, with few expecting such a level of furore prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013.
“I didn’t think there’d be something so big so soon,” said local taxi driver Sergio Mendonca. “As soon as I saw this enormous pavilion here, I knew it was an event related to the 2014 World Cup. The structure they’ve set up is really impressive. It feels like the World Cup has arrived in Brazil almost overnight, with people starting to get involved and the tension mounting.”
In a city where, even on a normal day, stumbling upon impromptu matches on the street, the beach or any number of pitches is almost a given, the reach of the beautiful game is even more all-pervasive at the moment. For the people of Rio, there can be no doubt that the build-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup has begun in earnest, while those arriving in the city for the Preliminary Draw will take at least one image home with them: nowhere lives and breathes football like Brazil.