By Steve Keating
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, June 14 (Reuters) - Rain-soaked workers were scrambling to complete the Beira Rio stadium on the eve of its World Cup debut on Sunday while sensitive officials looked on nervously.
With the Group E clash between France and Honduras looming, the stadium in the southern city of Porto Alegre resembled a muddy construction site following two days of steady and sometimes torrential rain that slowed the pace of work.
In the plaza outside the stadium, concession stands stood empty while workers splashed through large puddles trying to construct podiums for the World Cup's major sponsors.
The buzz of drills filled the air as workers tried to bridge big gaps in the perimeter fencing while metal detectors were in place but not operational.
With time running out, workers were looking for a quick fix, covering massive holes with steel plates rather than filling them as newly-laid paving stones sank into the ground under the downpour.
Inside the stadium, work continued as technicians scurried around the pitch laying cables and setting up networks.
Piles of debris and stacks of red seats filled one entrance into the 48,000 seat venue that is set to host four group matches and a last 16 game.
In a fan area picnic tables were still wrapped in cardboard and plastic while a couple of stray dogs roamed around the venue searching for shelter.
When a Reuters reporter was spotted taking photographs he was stopped by officials and ordered to hand over his mobile phone or delete pictures of the chaotic scene.
France were scheduled to hold a training session at the stadium on Saturday afternoon followed by Honduras.
Their coach Didier Deschamps was not worried about the rainy, cool weather and saw the conditions as helping his team.
"There are variations in temperature that are quite different between stadiums," said Descahmps.
"Here it's a lot cooler it's true, which is not a bad thing. I'd say it's an advantage. When you go from low temperatures to higher temperatures it is not as good.
"I'm not sure the weather will be as fine tomorrow, we'll see if it rains or not." (Editing by Ken Ferris)