Brazil labors toward delivering World Cup on time

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 9, 2014 at 10:18 am •  Published: May 9, 2014
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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke is keeping watch as Brazil labors to finish stadiums for next month's World Cup.

After years of missed due dates in preparation, the World Cup opens on June 12 in Sao Paulo with some of the 12 stadiums largely untested.

"I would not say it's not ready, but it's not finished," Valcke said of the World Cup project at a briefing on Thursday.

Valcke got good news on May 1 when his daughter Valentina was born earlier than scheduled.

"At least she arrived on time, three weeks before, so she's good," the 53-year-old Frenchman quipped.

The Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, which will host the Brazil-Croatia opener, has been become the symbol of the host nation's much-criticized efforts amid protests that authorities are too focused on soccer and not the needs of the people.

The venue is late, expensive and within sight of an occupation of private land by thousands of protesters who claim they have been made homeless by rising rents in the neighborhood.

With 14,000 guests, including invited heads of state, in the 65,000-strong crowd for the opening match, the scrutiny on Sao Paulo will be intense.

"This is why we need to have a level of operation which is perfect," Valcke said.

Pressure on FIFA, local organizers and Brazil's infrastructure will not ease during a tough early match schedule. There's the Spain-Netherlands match in Salvador and England-Italy in the remote new Manaus arena, quickly followed by Germany-Portugal in Salvador and Brazil-Mexico in Fortaleza.

"These stadiums will be used at 100 percent of capacity," Valcke said.

Reflecting on seven official years of World Cup work ahead of his May 18 departure to Brazil, Valcke accepted that "many things" could have been done differently.

"It is difficult. Maybe we should have involved the Brazilian government before," he said.

Valcke said anti-government street protests, which marred the Confederations Cup last June, will likely return during the 31-day, 64-match World Cup. However, political demonstrations and banners will not be allowed inside stadiums and FIFA has acted to shield President Dilma Rousseff from a repeat of boos directed at her during the Confederations Cup opening ceremony in Brasilia.

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