Brazil to miss deadline for World Cup stadiums
On the eve of yet another FIFA deadline, Brazil has delivered only three of the six venues for the eight-nation warm-up starting in two months.
World football's governing body FIFA had demanded that all six stadiums be ready by this past December but construction delays forced it to extend the deadline until April 15. Even with that extra time, all the stadiums will not be ready.
The cities of Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Salvador have complied with the timetable and delivered their stadiums, while Recife will open its Arena Pernambuco on Sunday, one day ahead of the final FIFA deadline.
In Brasilia, 5,000 workers toil around the clock to finish the Mane Garrincha National Stadium, bolting seats into concrete galleries and draining the field where rolls of grass have still to be laid for the pitch. The $500 million colonnaded arena in the center of Brazil's modern capital is the most expensive of the 12 venues that will host the World Cup.
Brazil will face Japan here in the opening game of the Confederations Cup on June 15, the first test of the South American nation's ability to organize two rapidly approaching global sporting events, next year's World Cup and the Olympic Games two years later.
Building delays and cost overruns are threatening to turn the two events into an international embarrassment for Brazil instead of showcasing its arrival as a major economic power.
Brazilian officials, however, maintain that all will be fine. Opening Salvador's Fonte Nova stadium last week, President Dilma Rousseff said five-times world champion Brazil will prove to be unbeatable on and off the sports field by "exceeding expectations" in organizing the global soccer tournament.
The biggest problem is with the venerable Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's largest stadium built for the 1950 World Cup. The arena is scheduled to hold the final match of the tournament on June 30 but is still undergoing finishing touches to a $400 million refurbishment, it's third costly overhaul in 12 years.
The pitch has been laid and more than half the 78,000 seats have been installed, but work is still being done on the massive roof while access areas to the stadium have not been started.
Maracanã was supposed to be ready by this past December but that date was repeatedly pushed back. The earliest it will be handed over to FIFA is April 27, FIFA and Rio state officials said, and there are doubts the stadium will be finished even then.
An exasperated FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke reluctantly acknowledged last week that Brazil will not complete its preparations on time.
"Not all operational arrangements will be 100 percent" for the Confederations Cup, Valcke wrote on FIFA's website, warning that such delays would not be tolerated for the World Cup.
"The deadline for the FIFA World Cup stadiums delivery stands firm as December 2013. There will be no compromise," he wrote. Valcke said the scale of next year's World Cup required a minimum six-month operational set-up.
With an estimated three