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Brazil has 100 days left to get World Cup ready

March 4, 2014
Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil is running out of time.

World Cup organizers will mark 100 days to go on Tuesday with a lot of work still to be done on stadiums and infrastructure in the 12 host cities.

As national teams enter their final phase of preparations — a series of warm-ups are scheduled for this week — the Brazilian government is trying to ensure the country will be ready to host the tournament in June.

Although Brazil had nearly seven years to prepare after winning the bid to host the tournament in 2007, there are four stadiums still under construction and work outside many of the venues is far from completed.

Doubts also remain about whether the cities will be able to host the fanfests they promised years ago. Airports likely won't have all the work completed either, and many of the urban projects initially expected to be ready for the World Cup won't be finalized until after the event.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke recently said work must remain at "full speed" until the opener on June 12. Soccer's governing body has been expressing its confidence that everything will be ready despite the setbacks.

"Listen, 100 days, it's a long way to go, and it's a short way to go if there are still problems," FIFA President Sepp Blatter told FIFA.com. "But now all problems are under control and it will be, in 100 days, an exceptionally good start for an exceptional competition."

There will be a few events marking the 100-day point across Brazil on Tuesday, with some of the host cities lighting up traditional buildings in the colors of the Brazilian flag.

Brazil promised all 12 stadiums would be ready by the end of last year, but only six were completed. Two may be ready less than a month before the World Cup, including the one hosting the opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo.

The Itaquerao is not expected to be ready before May 15, Valcke said. That's when they also believe the venue in the southern city of Curitiba will also be finalized. The stadium in the wetlands city of Cuiaba is almost done, but work outside the venue remains far from complete.

"Eight stadiums are ready and the ninth, in Manaus, will be delivered on Sunday," Brazil deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes said. "The others will also be ready with enough time to be tested before the World Cup."

Infrastructure work outside nearly every stadium is a big reason for concern. Even in places where the stadium was finished, it's common to find construction sites filled with workers rushing to finish footpaths, pave access roads and install lighting posts.

"We have to work in conditions where the cement is not even dry (and) we already put things in place," Valcke said. "There is no criticism, there is just a challenge. For sure, the stadiums are beautiful. It will work and you will have what you expected."

Equipping a stadium to World Cup working standards requires 90 days, so FIFA and local organizers will have to start installing temporary structures needed for media and sponsors while construction work continues outside the venues.

A recent poll showed the lowest support among Brazilians for hosting the World Cup. Many are frustrated with the billions spent to host the tournament, money they would rather see spent to improve hospitals, schools and infrastructure.

"We have learned a lot by hosting the World Cup," Fernandes said. "And we will certainly take advantage of what we learned in other moments."

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