Last January, during the Men’s World Championship, the Brazilian Handball Confederation put on a very impressive presentation of the Santa Catarina province, the intended region for the Women’s World Championship in December this year. Santa Catarina is a charming and pleasant region, where I once encountered great hospitality and competence when participating in a PanAmerican handball event. It occured to me then that this might be a nice region for an international event, perhaps a junior world championship.
But I was still a little bit surprised when I heard that Santa Catarina was expected to host an event as large and complex as the Women’s World Championship. Charm and hospitality are not the only requirements for such an event. Great demands are placed on the availability of several well-equipped arenas, other infrastructure and strong logistics. Apparently, during its inspection last February, the IHF found that there were a large number of quite major improvements needed to bring the intended sites up to acceptable standard. A deadline was given for these major adjustments to take place.
It now appears that this task turned out to be unrealistic and the IHF had to conclude that Santa Catarina could not be accepted. The Brazilians were given a short period to try to find a suitable alternative. Fortunately, the Metropolitan Region of Sao Paulo would then immediately come to mind as a good back-up solution. This is a resourceful region with facilities and logistics tested in major international sports events over the years. Of course, the setting is very different from the more quaint Santa Catarina. The Sao Paulo region has around 20 million inhabitants, including around 12 million within the city limits. It is a really densely populated area with the inevitable traffic congestion, and other pros and cons that are typical of a really huge metropolitan area.
Apart from the city itself, groups are expected to be hosted by Sao Bernardo do Campo, Barueri and Santos. The arenas, which have a capacity in the range of 11000-5000 are said to require only minor improvements, which with the support of the local governments could reliably be accomplished. Sao Bernardo is not exactly a small suburb but a major municipality with close to 1 million inhabitants; many Panamerican handball events have been hosted there, and I know the area well. Barueri is a little bit smaller. Santos is technically a separate city in the State of Sao Paulo. It is not just the port city for Sao Paulo but has the largest port in the entire Latin America. If you are a football fan, you may be aware that Pele broke through as teenager playing for Santos FC, where he loyally remained for 20 years.
While it is a little bit ominous to have an entirely new site chosen for a World Championship just 6 months ahead of time, Sao Paulo is perhaps one of the few places that could manage this situation successfully, on account of its resources and experience. Let us wish them good luck in their preparations. The draw for the event will take place on July 2, when all the qualified teams are known.