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Deadline extended as Brazilian reality bites

Updated: 2013-12-05 07:14
By Agence France-Presse in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil ( China Daily)

After months of speculation over Brazil's ability to be ready for next year's World Cup, FIFA agreed on Tuesday to extend a deadline for delivering three of the 12 host venues.

World soccer's governing body had insisted all along that it would not extend a Dec 31 deadline for all 12 stadiums to be delivered to organizers after a frenzied construction program.

But on Tuesday, with the eyes of the soccer world on the northeastern resort of Costa do Sauipe ahead of Friday's draw for next June's finals, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said late delivery would be allowed for three venues lagging behind schedule.

FIFA still has no date for when the Sao Paulo stadium will be ready following last week's accident in which two workers were killed when a crane collapsed and damaged part of the stands.

In addition, Blatter conceded the stadiums at Curitiba and Cuiaba would not meet a deadline he had previously insisted was set in stone.

Delivery of the stadiums at Curitiba and Cuiaba is now expected for February, just four months before the World Cup starts.

FIFA had previously insisted it would not allow Brazil leeway on delivery dates after having tolerated similar delays ahead of last June's Confederations Cup dress rehearsal, when several venues missed the deadline for that tournament.

Blatter said he was confident the Brazilians would deliver, even belatedly, their first World Cup since 1950 as the giant nation strains to revamp its creaking infrastructure.

Sao Paulo "will be ready," Blatter told a media conference, saying he was basing his optimistic assessment on a new report.

"We have just received a report. There are some small delays in construction of stadia. But so small that with one exception (Sao Paulo) we can say everything is ready," said Blatter.

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said the stadium in Curitiba, which has been lagging behind schedule more than the other venues, would not be ready until the end of February.

"Curitiba is the one where we are facing the most problems and won't be delivered before the end of February. We will be ready to get the stadium by then," Valcke said.

The Arena Amazonia in Manaus, in the heart of the tropical rain forest, also remains under construction, as does the one at Cuiaba.

Blatter said FIFA believed it could trust the federal government, the state governments and the respective city authorities to ready their sites in good time to host the event.

Brazilian sports ministry executive secretary Luis Fernandes indicated the stadiums lagging behind would be delivered "in late January or late February".

On Wednesday, Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo will be among officials fronting pre-draw events where the host will stress it can overcome doubts about transport links, hotel prices and urban crime.

Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and the civil aviation authority will also address complaints about unreasonably high prices.

Other concerns focused on accommodation capacity, with about 600,000 foreign tourists expected to attend the month-long event which opens on June 12 in Sao Paulo.

Many Brazilians are angry at the estimated $11 billion cost of staging the World Cup - about another $15 billion will follow for the 2016 Rio Olympics - believing the money could have been better spent on improving public transport, education and health.

 Deadline extended as Brazilian reality bites

Former Brazilian national team captain Cafu plays with Brazuca - the official ball for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup - at a media launch in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. Yasuyoshi Chiba / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 12/05/2013 page23)