Brazil: Recife will be ready in 2013
Organizers of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil said Thursday they are certain the northeastern city of Recife will be ready in time to host next year's Confederations Cup - even though FIFA has yet to give it the go-ahead.
At a meeting of the organizing committee, its president Jose Maria Marin read out a letter from Pernambuco State Governor Eduardo Campos assuring FIFA that the Recife stadium will be ready on April 14 - about two months ahead of the World Cup warm-up tournament.
''We shouldn't doubt the words of a governor,'' Marin said. ''We have a signed letter by him here.''
Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the government official in charge of the country's preparations for the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, also said Recife will be ready.
''I'm confident the Arena Pernambuco will be delivered in time,'' he said. ''The work has been progressing at a fast pace and the numbers show that it will be possible for the venue to be ready for the Confederations Cup. In November we will be able to have that confirmed.''
FIFA communications director Walter de Gregorio said after the meeting in Rio de Janeiro that football's governing body will only finalize the host cities for the Confederations Cup on Nov. 8, after its technical team completes its assessment of the preparations.
''It's not only about when the stadiums will be delivered,'' Gregorio said. ''The question will be `when can we start with the tests at the stadiums?' It's an issue we will have to tackle. All of us want to have six cities, but the decision has to be made based on facts and figures. We will have the answer in about three weeks.''
FIFA initially selected Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Salvador and Recife as host cities for the warm-up competition, but it said that Salvador and Recife would only have their participation ratified if they showed improvement in their preparations by the November deadline.
FIFA can't wait any longer than that because it needs to start preparing ticket sales for the tournament. It has already prepared alternative match schedules with four or five host cities.
FIFA's technical team was in Recife to inspect the preparations on Tuesday, the same day that its secretary general, Jerome Valcke, expressed his concern over the slow pace of construction at some Confederations Cup stadiums, without naming any of them.
Recife's Arena Pernambuco was 64 percent completed by the end of September, while the Fonte Nova Arena was 74 percent finalized.
Valcke didn't participate in Thursday's board meeting, having been hospitalized Wednesday night because of a kidney infection. FIFA said that the Frenchman, who was represented at the meeting by deputy secretary general Markus Kattner, is expected to stay in the hospital for two or three days.
Valcke had been leading FIFA's tour of World Cup host cities. He visited Belo Horizonte on Tuesday and Porto Alegre on Wednesday. He is due to tour all 12 host cities by the end of the year, with Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro yet to be officially visited.
During Thursday's meeting, local government representatives provided an update on operational plans for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, while local organizers and FIFA presented updates on the national team training centers, safety, team services, broadcasting and marketing.
It was also confirmed Thursday that FIFA will set up its head office during the World Cup at Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.