SAO PAULO, July 24, 2008 (AFP) - Brazil is to invest 2.46 billion dollars upgrading its airports to cope with the hundreds of thousands of tourists expected in 2014 for the football World Cup, officials said Thursday.
A significant amount of the money will be spent overhauling the airports of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The investment figure covers works started last year through to projects to be carried out up to the end of 2010.
The announcement, by the state airport management agency Infraero, came in reply to criticism Wednesday by the Brazilian General Aviation Association, a grouping of private aircraft owners, that Brazil's airports currently could not cope with the World Cup inflow.
The vice-president of the association, Adalberto Febeliano, told reporters more than 500,000 football fans were expected, with each one taking between six and 14 flights during the tournament to get to the games in various cities.
The majority of Brazil's airports were built before the end of World War II, and several were at saturation point in terms of passengers, the association said.
It added that it should be possible to renovate the facilities "within three or four years" if the political will existed.
Infraero said in a statement: "In the race against time, Infraero is making sure that the 67 airports in its network are in perfect condition and can welcome in comfort and security passengers in Brazil and from abroad."
It noted that 12 Brazilian cities and towns would be hosting World Cup matches.