Stadium delays a concern as Confed Cup looms

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Associated Press

Posted on March 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 1 at 3:04 PM

SAO PAULO (AP) — Some soccer stadiums remain unfinished three months before the Confederation Cup, a test event for the World Cup.

The deadline for the completion of one venue was delayed again this week. The few finished stadiums have problems, including a faulty field, while the recent threat of a workers' strike at Maracana stadium is causing concern.

Local organizers have guaranteed the country will be ready. Yet only two of the six stadiums were completed by December as originally planned by FIFA. The recent glitches raise doubts about whether they will be ready by the new mid-April deadline established by soccer's governing body.

"We are certainly on a very tight schedule with a few of the stadia," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke wrote in his regular online column. "But we trust in the commitment made by the federal government and the governors and mayors responsible that they will fulfill the guarantees they provided."

Brazil's Sports Ministry said it has "full confidence" in those responsible for the stadiums, saying all the venues will be ready by the established deadlines — April 15 for the ones used in the Confederations Cup and by the end of the year for the other six needed for the 2014 World Cup.

"The construction work is progressing every day and there is no reason for concern," the ministry said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

The Arena Fonte Nova in the city of Salvador would have been the third venue completed, but local authorities said Friday that constructors were unable to finish it as scheduled for its opening on March 29.

The 50,000-capacity Fonte Nova will host three Confederations Cup matches, including between Brazil and Italy on June 22. It also will host six World Cup matches in 2014.

FIFA usually wants venues ready at least six months before events, but it was forced to make an exception because of delays in construction.

The Fonte Nova stadium will be officially opened on April 7, with organizers saying they need the extra time to conduct operational tests and make final adjustments, including to the field, despite being 95 percent completed by the end of January.

"In March, there will be a transition phase to start testing all the equipment, keeping pace with the timetable established for the upcoming international events it will host," the Bahia state government said in a statement.

Valcke, who will be in Brazil next week to inspect some of the venues, said the country will be entering "the final lap of preparations" when the 100-day mark to the tournament's opener is reached next week.

"Although some of the stadiums are still in the final construction phase, the local organizing committee is beginning to build up its team at the venues," he said. "This means that, together with the host cities, it is accelerating the process of preparing the stage to welcome the teams, fans and officials this June."

Only the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte and the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza were delivered on time in December.

The Confederations Cup will be played in Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Recife. The stadium in Brasilia, which will host the opener on June 15, isn't ready yet but work is progressing according to plan.

Maracana, home of the final on June 30, is yet to be finished. Construction workers nearly went on strike recently, threatening the April deadline.

The Arena Castelao in the northeastern city of Fortaleza was the first new stadium to be completed on Dec. 16. But there were problems with ticketing, telecommunication, access for fans with disabilities and traffic outside the stadium during its inauguration event in January. Valcke said the stadium passed its first test, calling the glitches minor.

The Mineirao, which will host a World Cup semifinal, was delivered a few days later. But the problems at its first test event were more serious — related to field drainage, concession stands, bathrooms and ticket sales — and led to a fine of nearly $500,000 for the company responsible.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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