Soccer

WCup officials in Cuiaba say stadium will be ready

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CUIABA, Brazil (AP)

Officials in the World Cup city of Cuiaba acknowledged Thursday they were running late but insisted the venue would be ready for the tournament in June.

The city's planned 22 kilometers (13 miles) of tram line won't be ready, raising questions about how smoothly fans will be able to get around the west-central Brazilian city and to its Pantanal arena, which now sits in a morass of red earth turning gooey with the start of the rainy season.

The tram ''is the biggest challenge we have,'' said Mauricio Souza Guimaraes, who is overseeing World Cup projects for Mato Grasso state. ''We do have plans B and C,'' including using buses if necessary, he said.

For now, travelers to Cuiaba land at an airport bustling with construction, take a road that has been half ripped up for the eventual tramlines and arrive at a stadium where the roof and facades are not finished, which has no seats, and where the muddy pitch was seeded with grass only last week.

''We had a collapse in the labor force.'' Guimaraes said, explaining the delays, adding that the city has had to import laborers, including some from Haiti.

Guimaraes said the stadium is now about 90 percent complete, and will be ready to hold test events by the second half of February.

The stadium is scheduled to hold four World Cup matches, the first being between Chile and Australia on June 13.

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