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WCup stadiums: Sao Paulo only one of the problems

AP - Sports
Brazil downplays missing FIFA's stadium deadline
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SAO PAULO (AP) -- Even before a crane dramatically collapsed and killed two workers at the Sao Paulo stadium, it was clear World Cup organizers would have their hands full trying to deliver all 12 venues by FIFA's end-of-December deadline.

The giant crane buckled when hoisting a 500-ton metal structure that came crushing on top of the stadium, clipping part of the roof and cutting through a huge LED panel that runs across the venue's outer facade.

The ravaged crane was seen resting on the ground outside the stadium, while the enormous metal roofing piece stayed atop part of the stands.

Clearly it wasn't just a minor setback for the venue that will host the 2014 World Cup opener on June 12.

Wednesday's accident immediately raised doubts about Brazil's preparedness to host football's showcase event. The timing could not have been worse, putting the country under even more pressure just days before the international soccer community begins arriving for a high-profile World Cup draw.

But as bad as the tragedy was at the Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo is not the only problem for World Cup organizers just weeks before all stadiums must be delivered.

Actually, work in Sao Paulo was almost finished when the accident happened. It was one of the most advanced venues among the six that must be delivered this year.

The story is different in Curitiba, Cuiaba and the jungle city of Manaus, where there are signs they might not make it in time despite claims by local organizers that all three venues will be ready as expected.

FIFA says it will have a better idea of what will be delivered next week, just ahead of Friday's World Cup draw in Costa do Sauipe.

''Next week the preliminary updates on the operations of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be provided for all operational and infrastructural areas,'' football's governing body said. ''Following these assessments and presentations FIFA will provide an update.''

Skepticism about Brazil's ability to deliver the stadiums intensified after organizers failed to keep their promise ahead of the Confederations Cup, when only two of the six venues were completed by the original FIFA deadline. FIFA made it clear it would not tolerate the same delays that plagued the warm-up tournament and, with about 1 million tickets already sold, soccer's governing body says there is no Plan B for the World Cup.

''Further inspections and assessments will occur in December and January to assess the stadiums, along with the months leading up to the FIFA World Cup,'' FIFA said.

Workers are running against time in venues across the country.

In the wetlands city of Cuiaba, there is an ongoing court battle over the supplier of seats for the Arena Pantanal, meaning at any moment a judge can stop construction. The initial bidding process for the seats was suspended just a few months ago over prosecutors' claims they were overpriced. Local organizers said the seats must start being installed by Dec. 20 at the latest.

In addition, a recent visit to the construction site showed there was a lot of work still left for the final few weeks. Just until recently, the roof was still not finished and the pitch was yet to be installed.

The situation was similar in Manaus, where authorities said the Arena Amazonia was 91 percent completed by the end of November. Organizers are expecting to deliver the venue on Dec. 20.

Manaus is one of the host cities that had to make changes to the original project to stand a chance of making the FIFA deadline. Some of the stadium's features will only be added after the World Cup.

Organizers in southern Curitiba gave up on installing a retractable roof that was in the original design. FIFA made the request to remove the roof from the World Cup project because it would not be finished in time and would delay the overall construction.

The stadium was only 85 percent completed by October, according to the latest numbers released by organizers.

Work at the Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal was nearly 95 percent completed, while construction at the Beira-Rio Stadium in southern Porto Alegre was just behind that pace. The stadiums in Salvador, Fortaleza, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia were ready for the Confederations Cup in June.

Nearly all of the stadiums came over budget, though, another reason for widespread criticism in Brazil. The latest numbers by the government show that all 12 venues will cost a total of $3.4 billion, significantly higher than the $2.2 billion estimated in 2010. Last year, the cost for the stadiums was estimated at $3 billion.

The most recent estimate still doesn't account for the increase that will likely happen in the cost of the Arena Corinthians because of the accident. The venue was estimated at $350 million before the crane collapsed.

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