Construction set to start on Natal stadium

RIO DE JANEIRO - Organisers of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil received a boost on Wednesday when city officials in Natal, one of two host cities still to start work on a stadium for the tournament, said they had received a single bid for its construction and hoped to start work next month.

"The documents of the only participants will be analysed immediately," the state government of Rio Grande do Norte said of the OAS construction company's bid to build the Arena das Dunas after the process closed on Wednesday. "The analysis should be concluded by April 15."

Brazil's preparations for the tournament, due to be staged in 12 venues, have been hit by delays in the building of stadia and infrastructure, with airports one of the major concerns.

By far the biggest worry remains Sao Paulo, where it is still uncertain how the planned Itaquerao stadium, to be built by the Corinthians club, will be financed.

Corinthians had originally planned to build a 48,000 capacity stadium but this would have to be increased to 65,000 if Sao Paulo is to stage the opening match.

There is still no confirmed start date for the stadium and Brazil's national association of architects and constructors (Sindaeco) also warned the planning permission still needed to be obtained for work to start.

"Corinthians have promised to start work on its stadium but the project is not complete and the necessary permissions for construction have not been issued," Sindaeco said in a report.

Despite this, government officials last week said they were certain Sao Paulo would stage the opening match and local organisers officially named the stadium as the city's venue on Tuesday.

In Zurich, local organising committee chairman Ricardo Teixeira brushed aside the problems after meeting FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary general Jerome Valcke.

"With the... stadium contract finalised and all FIFA World Cup stadiums now confirmed, we can focus on the operational aspects of the tournament preparations with special attention to our first major event on Brazilian soil - the preliminary draw in less than four months," he told FIFA's official website.

The draw for the 2014 World Cup qualifying competition is due to be held in Rio de Janeiro in July.