World Cup kick-off venue not ready for final test


SAO PAOLO: The stadium hosting the opening match of the World Cup on June 12 will not be finished in time for its final test event, its owners said Friday.

Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena had to schedule a last-minute test for Sunday, 11 days from the World Cup kick-off, after its first official match revealed a host of problems despite only filling the stadium to half capacity.

But Corinthians football club, the stadium’s owners, said safety officials had only authorized them to sell 40,000 tickets for the second test event, still short of the 65,000 fans expected for the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia.

That will likely create new friction with FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, the football governing body’s task-master for host country preparations, who wrote in a dismayed tweet after visiting the stadium on May 21 that it is “vital for us that all facilities will be tested under full match conditions.”

Work on Brazil’s 12 host stadiums has been marred by chronic delays, cost overruns and construction accidents that have killed eight workers — three of them in Sao Paulo.

The stadiums in host cities Curitiba, Cuiaba, Porto Alegre and Natal are all incomplete to varying degrees 13 days from the opening ceremony and match.

Valcke, who has had a rocky relationship with local organizers — at one point saying the Brazilians needed a “kick up the backside” — again underlined the urgency of the situation.

“The staging of a FIFA World Cup is a collective effort and we will not have a single moment to relax until the opening matches in all 12 cities,” he wrote on FIFA’s website Friday.

“All of them — and sorry if I keep repeating myself — must be perfect.”

In Sao Paulo the main problem is two temporary seating areas with a capacity of 10,000 people each.

Corinthians said one set of extra stands was “in the process of being finished” ahead of Sunday’s match, a Brazilian league game between Corinthians and Botafogo.

The other is finished, but firefighters have only authorized the club to open it at half capacity, said Fast Engenharia, the company installing the structures.

Work on the temporary seating areas was delayed when a worker fell to his death from one of them on March 21.

The labor ministry halted work on them for two weeks after the accident, demanding safety improvements.

The stadium finally held its first official match on May 18, between Corinthians and Figueirense.

The 36,000 fans faced broken elevators, exterior lighting problems, patchy cell-phone connectivity and a drenching storm that forced some to move to higher seats because part of the glass-panelled roof was still unfinished.

Brazil officially handed the stadium over to FIFA on May 21, long past the original December 31 deadline for all 12 stadiums.

Corinthians say the venue will end up costing between 920 million and 950 million reais ($417 million and $431 million) — between 14 percent and 18 percent over its original budget.



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