Valcke: Sao Paulo ready to host World Cup opener
SAO PAULO -- FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke is confident Sao Paulo's stadium will be ready to host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup after overcoming its slow pace of construction.
A few months ago, FIFA had doubts about whether the venue would be finished by the December deadline established for all World Cup stadiums. But Valcke said Monday after an inspection tour in Sao Paulo, "Yes, it will be ready."
Sao Paulo was Valcke's first stop in a four-day tour to inspect construction work in some of the 12 host cities. He will also visit Curitiba and Manaus before attending a board meeting of the local organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
Valcke showed relief after the Sao Paulo visit, saying the work at the stadium appeared to be on track.
"I remember that during the Confederations Cup we had an emergency meeting because we were afraid about when this stadium would be delivered," Valcke said. "And I can tell you that, yes, the stadium will be given on time and, yes, it will be ready to organize the opening game of the World Cup and also for test events here before this opening game."
FIFA usually wants stadiums ready at least six months before major events but only two were completed within that timeframe ahead of the Confederations Cup earlier this year, keeping organizers from hosting enough events to thoroughly test the venues. FIFA made it clear that it wouldn't tolerate the same type of delays ahead of football's showcase event.
"We are confident, we are very happy," Valcke said from the stadium, with the newly installed pitch just behind him. "The grass seems already beautiful. In a few weeks, it will be ready to host the games. So again, what has been done is just amazing."
Constructors in Sao Paulo had said that it could take until March for the venue to be completed, only three months before the World Cup. That forced FIFA to go to local organizers and get them to hurry up.
Brazil Sport Minister Aldo Rebelo, the government official in charge of Brazil's preparations for the World Cup, said the stadium is 86 percent completed. It's the venue with the most advanced work of the six that still have to be delivered by December. Among the host cities racing against time are Curitiba and Manaus.
In addition to the problems with the stadiums, just days ago the government said it was concerned with the price hikes of hotels listed on FIFA's website, something that could prompt an investigation into the FIFA-appointed agency in charge of accommodation.
There have also been doubts about whether the upgrades needed at the country's airports will be ready in time for an event that kicks off in less than 10 months.
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Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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