Stadium delays still a concern as Confed Cup looms

With only three months to go before the Confederations Cup
begins in Brazil, there are signs the stadiums may not be ready for
the World Cup test event.

The deadline for the completion of one venue has been delayed
again this week. The few stadiums opened have revealed problems,
including a faulty pitch, while the recent threat of a workers’
strike at Maracana stadium is also causing concern.

Local organizers have guaranteed the country will be ready but
only two of the six stadiums were finalized by December as
originally expected by FIFA. The recent glitches raise doubts about
whether they will be ready by the new mid-April deadline
established by football’s governing body.

”We are certainly on a very tight schedule with a few of the
stadia,” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke wrote in his regular
online column. ”But we trust in the commitment made by the federal
government and the governors and mayors responsible that they will
fulfill the guarantees they provided.”

Brazil’s Sports Ministry said it has ”full confidence” in
those responsible for the stadiums, saying the venues will all be
ready by the established deadlines – April 15 for the ones used in
the Confederations Cup and by the end of the year for the other six
needed just for the World Cup.

”The construction work is progressing every day and there is no
reason for concern,” the ministry said in a statement sent to The
Associated Press.

The Arena Fonte Nova in the city of Salvador would have been the
third venue completed, but local authorities said Friday that
constructors were unable to finish it Thursday as scheduled for its
opening on March 29.

The stadium will now be officially opened on April 7, with
organizers saying they need the extra time to conduct operational
tests and make final adjustments, including to the pitch, despite
being 95 percent completed by the end of January.

”In March there will be a transition phase to start testing all
the equipment, keeping pace with the timetable established for the
upcoming international events it will host,” the Bahia state
government said in a statement.

The 50,000-capacity Fonte Nova will host three Confederations
Cup matches, including between Brazil and Italy on June 22. It will
also host six World Cup matches in 2014.

FIFA usually wants venues ready at least six months before
events, but it was forced to make an exception because of delays in
construction.

Valcke, who will be in Brazil next week to inspect some of the
venues, said the country will be entering ”the final lap of
preparations” when the 100-day mark to the tournament’s opener is
reached next week.

”Although some of the stadiums are still in the final
construction phase, the local organizing committee is beginning to
build up its team at the venues,” he said. ”This means that,
together with the host cities, it is accelerating the process of
preparing the stage to welcome the teams, fans and officials this
June.”

Only the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte and the Arena
Castelao in Fortaleza were delivered by December.

The Confederations Cup will be played in Salvador, Belo
Horizonte, Fortaleza, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Recife. The
stadium in Brasilia, which will host the opener on June 15, isn’t
ready yet but work is progressing according to plan.

Maracana, home of the final on June 30, is also yet to be
finalized. Construction workers almost went on strike recently,
threatening the April deadline.

The Arena Castelao in the northeastern city of Fortaleza was the
first new stadium to be completed, being delivered on Dec. 16. But
there were problems with ticketing, telecommunication, access for
fans with disabilities and traffic outside the stadium during its
inauguration event in January. Valcke said the stadium passed its
first test, however, calling the glitches minor and to be
expected.

The Mineirao, which will host a World Cup semifinal, was
delivered a few days later. But the problems at its first test
event were more serious – related to pitch drainage, concession
stands, bathrooms and ticket sales – and led to a fine of nearly
$500,000 to the company responsible.

The sports ministry said the problems at the Mineirao were
solved and dismissed issues at the Castelao, saying that the games
at the venue went on as expected.

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