FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — A southern Brazilian city will host matches during this year's World Cup despite serious problems with a stadium renovation that put it on the brink of becoming the first venue ever to be kicked out because of delays, FIFA said Tuesday.
Despite the decision to keep Curitiba in the tournament, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke warned that construction remains "very late" and said there is a very tight timeline to get the stadium ready.
FIFA said the decision was made because of "financial guarantees, the commitment by all stakeholders" and progress in renovation work.
"There is no other decision you can make (other) than keeping the city," Valcke said at a news conference. "Curitiba understood the information and the pressure that we put on three weeks ago."
He said the work done since then "gives us the confidence that, again, the stadium will be very late, but we will have a stadium for the World Cup."
The secretary general last month gave local organizers an ultimatum: Drastically speed up construction or be dropped from the tournament. He reiterated on Tuesday that local officials must keep the pace of construction at a high level.
"The pressure is there; day-to-day monitoring is there," Valcke said.
FIFA now expects the stadium to be ready in mid-May, only a month before the World Cup opening match in Sao Paulo on June 12. At least two test events are expected before that date, and the temporary structures needed outside the venue will be built while work continues inside the stadium.
"For this decision to take effect, this new pace of construction has to be maintained," Brazil's deputy sports minister, Luis Fernandes, said. "The monitoring will continue."
"Would it have been better to have the stadium ready in late December? It would have been better, of course," Fernandes said. "At the end of the day, we will have to learn from the lessons that led to the delays in Curitiba."
While Curitiba remains in the tournament with 11 other cities, the issue over the pace of construction highlights the severe organizational problems that Brazil has had to overcome since 2007, when it won the right to host this year's World Cup.
Officials in Brazil want to use the tournament to highlight the nation's advances. But widespread anti-government protests that question the billions being spent on the tournament, along with delays in preparations, have hurt Brazil's image.