Valcke in Brazil amid uncertainty over stadiums
SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke began his latest inspection tour of World Cup host cities Monday amid uncertainty about whether Brazil will be able to deliver the final six stadiums by the December deadline.
Valcke visited the southern city of Porto Alegre before moving to the wetlands city of Cuiaba, where local organizers were still trying to finalize a bidding process for the seats at the new stadium.
There were problems, too, in the southern city of Curitiba, where construction was halted because of workers’ safety concerns.
Brazilian organizers say all stadiums will be completed on time despite the recent setbacks.
Valcke has made it clear FIFA will not accept the same delays that plagued stadium construction before the Confederations Cup earlier this year, when only two of the six venues were delivered on time. Some were ready just before the start of the warm-up tournament, keeping organizers from hosting the desired number of test events.
Of the six stadiums yet to be completed, five were less than 90 percent finished by September, according to recent government numbers. The venues with the most advanced work were in Natal and in Sao Paulo, home of the World Cup opener on June 12.
The stadium in Cuiaba had been on schedule to be completed by the FIFA deadline but the problem with the seats has prompted concerns.
Local officials were forced to cancel the initial bidding process for the seats after public prosecutors alleged they were overpriced, prompting a rush to find a new supplier. Local organizers said they want the new seats delivered by Dec. 20, just days before the FIFA deadline.
In Curitiba, organizers were still trying to reverse a judge’s order that suspended construction after an inspection team deemed the site unsafe for workers. The work was stopped on Thursday and a new inspection took place Friday after officials said the safety problems were solved, but it remains unclear when the judge will issue a new ruling.
Valcke visited the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre accompanied by local World Cup organizing committee members Ronaldo and Bebeto, former Brazil stars. Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo also was there.
“There’s been a big change since we were here last time,” Valcke said. “There are no worries or doubts at all about the Beira-Rio being ready in time.”
In both cities, Valcke was meeting with high-ranking government officials in charge of the local preparations, and checking on infrastructure work being done.
Valcke is also giving away symbolic tickets to representatives of the construction workers, who will be allowed to watch one match for free at the venues.
He will participate in a board meeting of the local World Cup committee in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
FIFA announced this week that it received a record number of 152,101 volunteer applications for the tournament in Brazil, more than double the number in South Africa in 2010 (70,000) and more than triple the total for Germany in 2006 (45,000). Nearly 6,500 foreigners applied, with Colombians leading the way ahead of Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and Argentines.
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