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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