Brazil not worried over readiness

Updated: May 23, 2012, 4:20 PM ET
Associated Press

SAO PAULO -- The Brazilian government insisted Wednesday it's not worried with the pace of preparations for the 2014 World Cup even though it announced that only 5 percent of all the planned projects have been completed.

With about two years left before the World Cup, the government said 41 percent of the infrastructure work across the country has yet to start, and 15 percent of those projects are still in the planning stages.

But Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and other officials said the country's preparations are progressing according to schedule.

"It shouldn't be considered a problem that these projects haven't started yet," Rebelo said. "It doesn't mean we have delays just because work on these projects hasn't started yet. The planning process is just as important as the execution process. Everything is on schedule. We feel the work will be delivered on time, before 2014."

Rebelo also downplayed renewed criticism from Sepp Blatter about Brazil's pace of preparations, hinting the FIFA president has been influenced by pessimistic views about the work being done in the South American nation.

"I think Brazil has too great of a challenge for us to keep arguing publicly with officials in charge of the World Cup or any other event," Rebelo said. "Pessimism and optimism have always been part of the country's evolution and sometimes they can contaminate foreign officials like Joseph Blatter. And it's hard to change that, he is far (away)."

Rebelo added: "We are open to criticism. We don't own the truth. People will have different views. The government has its own opinion and it's optimistic that it will overcome all the challenges of the World Cup."

The report released by the government on Wednesday was the latest update on the country's preparations regarding stadium construction and infrastructure work for the World Cup.

The government said there are 101 projects in total, including airport upgrades, road construction and other undertakings needed to improve the 12 cities hosting matches in 2014. The report said 55 of the projects are under way, an increase from the numbers released in September 2011, when only about 30 had started.

"The report shows a significant improvement compared to the previous one," Rebelo said. "And the next one in October should show an even greater improvement."

The government said about 80 percent of the infrastructure work is expected to be completed by 2013.

Cities Minister Aguinaldo Ribeiro said some of Brazil's biggest challenges expediting the projects involve environmental issues, planning delays and construction difficulties.

"But we are confident we can make progress and overcome these challenges in a short period of time," he said.

The report also showed that 42 percent of the projects needed to upgrade Brazil's outdated airports haven't started yet, and that eight of the 12 World Cup stadiums were less than 50 percent completed.

Construction in venues in Natal, Cuiaba and Porto Alegre were less than 25 percent done, but the government said construction in all stadiums was going according to plan and would be completed in time for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press