13 November 2018
Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium sports 1,500 Yingli solar panels, making it an eco-friendly venue. Panels are mounted on a metal ring that encircles the stadium’s roof. Photo: Bloomberg, Yingli Solar
Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium sports 1,500 Yingli solar panels, making it an eco-friendly venue. Panels are mounted on a metal ring that encircles the stadium’s roof. Photo: Bloomberg, Yingli Solar

World Cup: It’s not all about football

In the World Cup, it’s all about the football and a thousand other things.

The teams need a place to eat, sleep and play — and may be cool their heels in comfort and safety. There’s also the small matter of mobility.

Whatever is taking place before our gaze is due to the fact that a lot has happened away from it — a lot of competition.

On that score, the Chinese have been mostly in the winning column.

Take tendering and procurement, for instance.

Yingli Green Energy won a contract to install solar panels on the stadiums after Brazil decided to power the World Cup with green energy.

In the Brazilian city of Curitiba, where the concept of bus rapid transit was first put into practice, emission-free coaches produced by China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. (CSR, 01766.HK, 601766.CN) are shuttling players and fans between the city center and the airport.

More than 100 trains and 360 units of rolling stock supplied by CNR (06199.HK, 601299.CN) connect Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, the venue for the final, to the city’s airport and commercial districts.

An executive who oversees CNR’s Brazil operations told state news agency Xinhua that CNR has won an additional US$500 million worth of contracts for two major infrastructure projects in Rio de Janeiro.

Major competitors such as Bombardier, Siemens and Alstom are more advanced than CNR but the Chinese company makes up with flexible pricing what it lacks in core technology.

Analysts say buyers from Brazil and other emerging markets are not hung up on cutting-edge technology but will consider a cost-benefit model to determine spending on big-ticket items such as a high-speed rail network.

Also, CSR’s new energy bus is 10-15 percent cheaper than rival offerings from Volvo and Mercedes Benz.

Quick product delivery on tight deadlines is another factor. Brazilian authorities did not begin the procurement process for security equipment until one month before the World Cup.

However, within a month, Beijing-based Nuctech Co. Ltd. managed to ship 600 batches of X-ray scanners and portable metal detectors.

And who would have thought that the national flags flown at stadiums all came from a nondescript factory in Zhejiang province?

Or that Adidas Brazuca, the official ball, is made in Shenzhen?

LED displays at all playing venues are supplied by Aoto Electronics (002587.CN), another Chinese firm.

Brazil’s spending spree will not end when the 2014 champion is crowned.

In fact, the World Cup is merely a curtain raiser to the Summer Olympics Brazil will host in two years.

In all, spending for these mammoth events is expected to top out at 133 billion Brazilian real (US$59.5 billion), the biggest incentive for any company to get a foot in the door of South America’s biggest economy.

Nothing about all this is cushy and fool-proof, however.

For one thing, Brazil has not been an efficient organizer of the World Cup. Without an inter-ministerial body to oversee the preparations, the government faced delays and cost overruns.

Brazil may have learned its lesson but it doesn’t look like the Olympics will be handled any differently.

That means liaising with organizers, contractors and local governments can be a rather complicated issue. Also, there is no mediation mechanism for resolving disputes.

Chinese contractors and equipment suppliers worried that the World Cup could not be held as scheduled because many of the stadiums, including São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, venue of the opening match, were still under construction this month.

They’ll have to get used to tighter deadlines and tougher delivery times if they want to compete for a wave of Olympic-related spending.

That makes visa restrictions on Chinese visitors, strikes and protests look like a minor distraction.   

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


Solar panel maker Yingli is the first Chinese World Cup sponsor. Its solar panels power stadiums and other facilities. Photo: Xinhua

State media has been trumpeting China’s success off the pitch. Photo: CCTV

EJ Insight writer

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