Valcke heading to Brazil amid World Cup problems
SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA’s top official in charge of the World Cup is returning to Brazil to inspect host cities as the country continues to struggle to finish its stadiums just four months before the tournament begins.
FIFA said Wednesday that Secretary General Jerome Valcke will visit three venues beginning on Sunday, and will help decide whether the southern city of Curitiba will remain in football’s showcase event amid delays in stadium construction.
One of Valcke’s stops will be in the jungle city of Manaus, which last week reported the third worker’s death in less than a year. The stadium there was expected to be inaugurated this weekend but won’t be ready in time.
Valcke will also visit the capital Brasilia and the southern city of Porto Alegre before attending a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup teams in the southern city of Florianopolis. His visit ends with a board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee on Friday, also in Florianopolis.
Five of the 12 World Cup stadiums promised to be completed by the end of last year remain under construction. Six venues were ready for the Confederations Cup last year, and of the other six, only the Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal has been finished.
The other host cities with unfinished stadiums are Porto Alegre, Cuiaba and Sao Paulo, which will host the opener on June 12. Work in Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao stadium was delayed because of a crane collapse that damaged part of the venue and killed two workers last November.
The worker who died in Manaus last week was dissembling a crane that was used to install the stadium’s roof. The accident marked the seventh overall at World Cup stadiums.
Organizers in Manaus said work was not stopped because of the accident, but they will not be able to finish the Arena da Amazonia this weekend as initially planned. Valcke’s inspection visit there will be on Sunday.
The secretary general is not expected to travel to Curitiba, where last month he gave an ultimatum to local officials and said they have until Tuesday to show that work at their stadium can be finished in time for the World Cup. Local organizers have been saying they are optimistic about the pace of construction, but say there is a need to secure a government loan to be able to increase the number of workers at the site.
Brazil’s Sports Minister has said the government is working to make sure the loan is approved, but negotiations have not been finalized.
After the visit to the host cities, Valcke will head to Florianopolis for FIFA’s Team Workshop, where coaches and representatives of the World Cup nations will meet for the first time ahead of the tournament.
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