Brazil to accelerate 2014 preparations

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's much-criticised 2014 World Cup preparations will be accelerated towards the end of the year and improve the country's image, sports minister Orlando Silva said on Thursday.

Work on most of the 12 stadiums has been hit by increases in costs with the worst case in Sao Paulo where construction of Corinthians' new ground, earmarked for the opening match, is still to start three years before the finals.

"FIFA has been systematically following Brazil's preparations and knows the effort the country is making to comply with all the demands," Silva told the Radiobras programme "Good morning minister" in an interview.

"I believe that as we move from 2011 into 2012 the perception of Brazil will change because work on the stadiums at that stage will be very different. I'm confident of that turning point."

However, Silva said on Monday it was unlikely the Corinthians stadium would be ready for the 2013 Confederations Cup, a rehearsal for the World Cup finals a year later, while the start of its construction is delayed by red tape.

Apart from Sao Paulo, work on the stadium in Natal in the north of the country is behind time, while the Maracana in Rio, likely to stage the final, required a huge increase in budget because of the need to replace the top tier because of structural problems.

Silva confirmed that President Dilma Rousseff's decision last month to turn over the improvement and running of airports to private firms had been well received by world governing body FIFA, which had criticised transportation in Brazil.

He said there would also be an investment of 700 million Brazilian reais ($420.2 million) in the ports of venue cities to receive passengers from Ocean cruise ships.

"It's an investment of 700 million focused on passenger terminals. With this investment we'll have adequate tourist terminals for the World Cup," he said.

Silva put at 47 billion reais the total of public and private investments in World Cup related projects from work on stadiums and airports to health, security, hotels and professional training.