Top World Cup exec: No time to lose with stadium

TALES AZZONI (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) -- FIFA's top World Cup official visited the stadium that will host the tournament opener in less than two months and said there's ''not a minute'' to waste.

Secretary General Jerome Valcke, however, stressed that Itaquerao stadium will be ready for the Brazil-Croatia opener June 12.

He said local organizers are ''running against time,'' but they know there is ''no choice'' and understand they must meet their promise to finish all the work on time.

At the beginning of his latest tour of host cities, Valcke said Tuesday there are ''potential issues'' with two other stadiums, one still being built in the southern city of Curitiba and the other in nearby Porto Alegre. He will visit Curitiba this week to receive updates from local organizers.

The other stadium yet to be completed is the Arena Pantanal in the wetlands city of Cuiaba, where officials said Tuesday the inauguration will not happen this weekend as scheduled because of a delay in the delivery of about 5,000 seats. The venue's opening should happen in mid-May. Valcke will be in the city on Wednesday.

''There is not a single minute we can waste because there is still a lot of work to do to,'' Valcke said after checking the construction work at the Itaquerao. ''We are running against time. But, yes, the stadium will host the opening game and, yes, we will organize the opening game and all the other games in this stadium.''

There will be five other World Cup matches in Sao Paulo, including one of the semifinals.

The only FIFA test event scheduled for the Itaquerao will be a Brazilian league match May 17 or 18, about three weeks before the opener. Only 50,000 tickets will be sold even though the opener will hold nearly 70,000 people. FIFA usually wants three test events at venues used in tournaments such as the World Cup.

''I can tell you that it will be a very tight schedule over the next weeks in order to be ready for the opening game, and more important, to be ready on time for us to test the stadium,'' Valcke said.

Before the FIFA test, Corinthians is expected to host other minor events. A match between construction workers will be played May 1 for about 10,000 people, and an exhibition between Corinthians teams from past and present is planned for May 10 for about 20,000 fans.

Work at the Itaquerao was significantly delayed last November after a crane collapse killed two workers. Earlier this year, another accident killed one of the workers helping install the 20,000 temporary seats that will be needed for the opener.

''It's a tight schedule but it's all doable,'' Sao Paulo vice mayor Nadia Campeao said.

Local officials promised that most of the infrastructure work near the stadium will be completed in the next few weeks.

FIFA wanted all 12 World Cup stadiums ready by the end of last year, but only the six used in the Confederations Cup were ready.


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