Is Brazil ready for Prime Time?

On Thursday, the beginning of the biggest sporting event in the world will take place in Brazil. The World Cup soccer tournament gets under way in Rio de Janiero with the host country's team playing Croatia.

That is - if the stadium is finished.

Brazilian workers are racing to complete the stadium that will host the World Cup's first game, wiping seats, checking beams and installing wiring just days before the opening whistle.

As night fell on Saturday, helmeted workers were still toiling away on two long-delayed stands of Sao Paulo's new Corinthians Arena where Brazil will take on Croatia on Thursday.

A worker sat on a beam as he reviewed the structure under the south-side stand, which is surrounded by a massive grey tarp.

In the back, two workers stood on a lift raised to the top of the stand, also appearing to review the structure.

Six others wiped sand from the white seats whose sturdiness was tested with sandbags.

The 61,600-capacity stadium has come to symbolize Brazil's struggle to be ready on time for the World Cup as authorities scramble to finish five of the tournament's 12 venues.

Not only are the stadiums not finished, there has been a tremendous pushback from the political left who think the billions of dollars spent on the event would have been better used elsewhere:

Football officials are meeting in Brazil amid violent clashes between police and protesters less than a week before the start of the World Cup.

Fifa's executive committee are meeting in Sao Paulo to discuss the unrest, the prospect of several unfinished stadiums and renewed allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 tournament.

Police in Brazil have used tear gas and batons to break up protests in the city that will host the first game of the World Cup in less than a week.

A strike by subway workers in Sao Paulo affected millions of commuters and caused massive traffic jams on the night of the national team's final warm-up match before their opening game against Croatia on Thursday.

Across town there was a separate anti-government demonstration in which protesters blocked the street in front of the Central Bank in a protest against the economic policies of President Dilma Rousseff.

Police pushed back picketing strikers inside a central station after commuters tried to enter.

Three of the city's five lines were disrupted, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic to stretch as far as 155 miles (251km) as commuters turned to cars or buses.

The strike is set to continue today after the workers' union and their employers failed to reach an agreement on a pay rise.

Union leader Paulo Pereira da Silva said: "Our problem is not with the national team.

"We will cheer for them. But on October 5 (the date of a presidential election), we will send Dilma Rousseff to hell."

Brazil is a soccer-mad country - far beyond fanaticism when it comes to their national team. It's more like a religion than a matter of sport.

But with billions spent over the years on building the venues and preparing for a million or more visitors, prices have skyrocketed, there have been shortages, and the corruption and incompetence has been nauseating. Add to that, the billions that are going to be spent on the 2016 Summer Olympics, also being hosted by Brazil, are adding to the people's misery.

The purpose of Brazil's all out drive to host both huge sporting events is to show the world that Brazil has taken steps beyond other Latin American countries and is now the equal of any industrialized state on the planet. It was a tall order for a country with the economic and social problems of Brazil to make this effort. At this point, it is unknown if the gamble was worth it.

The games will go on and Brazilian authorities will keep their fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan. But the turmoil surrounding the event begs the question; is Brazil ready to be considered a real, grown up country? Or will they fall back into the category of "developing nations"?

Their performance to date does not fill the world with confidence that they have "arrived" as a first world country.

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