By Andrew Downie
SAO PAULO, April 22 (Reuters) - Delays to construction work at the Sao Paulo stadium hosting the opening match of the 2014 World Cup means the main test event there will not be played before a full house, organisers said on Tuesday.
The Arena Corinthians was built to hold 48,000 and another 20,000 temporary seats are being added for the World Cup but, with work in and around the ground still going on, 18,000 seats will be left empty for the test event featuring Corinthians and Figueirense on either May 17 or 18.
"The crowd (for the test match), under an agreement between Corinthians and LOC (Local Organising Committee) and FIFA, will be 50,000 people," Sao Paulo's deputy mayor Nadia Campeao told reporters.
There were contradictory statements from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke about the issue on Tuesday.
"Next important event for us will be on 17 or 18 May when the first official test with full capacity will take place at Arena de Sao Paulo," Valcke said on Twitter.
But when challenged about the capacity for the test event, he admitted there would not be a full house and highlighted that South Africa also staged events before the 2010 tournament in front of reduced crowds.
"It is not a big deal," Valcke told Reuters. "Two-thirds of the capacity is good."
The Arena Corinthians will stage the opening Cup match between hosts Brazil and Croatia.
Valcke, however, has constantly fretted over the late delivery of stadiums and facilities and insisted the delays make it tough to properly test everything.
"Sao Paulo will be ready for the opening game," Valcke said on the first day of a four-day trip to Brazil. "That doesn't mean Sao Paulo will be ready in time. As you know, the delivery date for the stadium was 15 Jan, 2014."
Huge areas surrounding the ground are still covered in dust and rubble, mechanical diggers and manual labourers.
A bus terminal under construction between the stadium and the nearest train station will be not be completed and a walkway from the metro is also in danger of not being ready, said Julio Semeghini, the Sao Paulo state secretary of planning and development.
"The access from the metro has to be ready. The bus terminal that will be a legacy for after the World Cup won't be ready," he told Reuters.
"We'll stop that work during the Cup and finish it after the Cup."
Valcke admitted he had not seen the area, even though he and Campeao both guaranteed that all the works around the stadium would be completed by May.
"I have not been walking around the stadium, I got an update from my team who come quite often to Sao Paulo to make sure that all is done," he said.
"I can tell you it will be very a tight schedule over the next few weeks. It will be ready but it's a tight problem we have in front of us."
The tournament has been beset by problems and delays. Although Brazil had almost seven years to get ready, with just 51 days to go before the opening match three stadiums are still unfinished and much of the promised infrastructure improvements have not happened.
The tournament will take place in 12 cities between June 12 and July 13.
Valcke will visit also Curitiba, Cuiaba and Fortaleza. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
- Sports & Recreation
- Jerome Valcke
- Sao Paulo