Brasilia put on standby to host extra World Cup games

Porto Alegre mayor says city may not be ready for tournament and may drop out

The Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre. Photograph: Getty Images)

The Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre. Photograph: Getty Images)

Tue, Mar 25, 2014, 18:31

Brasilia’s new 71,400-capacity stadium is believed to have been placed on standby to host extra World Cup matches if any of the planned venues are not finished in time, despite official insistence that all 12 will be completed before the tournament kicks off in June.

Publicly, Fifa continues to insist that the Brazil World Cup will be played at 12 venues but serious question marks remain over four stadiums. Sports minister Aldo Rebelo admitted in an interview with the Guardian last week it was likely to be “early May” before the last of the three unfinished stadiums was completed.

There are also renewed concerns over the stadium in Porto Alegre, after the mayor warned on Monday it would not be ready to host its five matches unless local lawmakers passed new tax laws to ease the construction of temporary facilities.

Rebelo said last week a contingency plan was “not necessary” but the Guardian understands that Brasília has been told by the government to remain on standby as a “plan B” if any of the venues earmarked are not ready in time. The Estadio Nacional was one of six completed in time to host the Confederations Cup last June and seats 71,400. It is scheduled to host seven games including Cameroon v Brazil in the group stages, a quarter-final and the third-place play-off.

Even after construction is finished on the stadiums, test events will have to be held to comply with licensing laws. Temporary facilities must also be installed, including communications networks, media centres and concession stands.

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke is in Rio de Janeiro this week for last-ditch talks with the organising committee, the federal government and the 12 host cities amid continuing concern over whether the stadiums will be ready in time. With less than three months until the tournament kicks off, there are alos fears over the readiness of the stadiums in Sao Paulo – where Brazil will face Croatia in the opening match on June 12th – Cuiaba and Curitiba.

Rebelo said the stadium in Cuiaba would be ready on April 2nd while the Sao Paulo ground, delayed by the deaths of two construction workers in November, would be handed over in mid-April. The Curitiba stadium, over which there has been most concern, with Fifa insiders admitting they faced a race against time to fit it out, would be completed by “the end of April or beginning of May”.

“There have been some delays, some of them are characteristic of this type of construction,” the sports minister said. “We have very strong regulations and controls. Compliance is extremely important. Sometimes there was a paralysis but the stadiums will be ready. Six were delivered for the Confederations Cup and we have already delivered three more. The final three will host test events as planned.”

The Brazilian organisers have form for missing deadlines and causing consternation at Fifa. In December Rebelo likened the delays to a bride who is late for a wedding and insisted they would be ready by March. The mayor of Porto Alegre has now thrown the readiness of that stadium into doubt by saying it will not be able to host World Cup matches unless local lawmakers vote to introduce tax breaks for the construction of temporary structures around it.

“All this equipment will be bought through this bill, which will provide the resources,” said Jose Fortunati. “If it’s not voted, we won’t be able to seek funding. This means that we will not have temporary structures and we will not have a World Cup. It’s simple to understand. There’s no plan B.”

The local government already said it will not spend public money on the projects, which are a responsibility of the stadium owner. The club in charge of the venue, Internacional, recently announced it would not pay for the structures alone, forcing local officials to scramble for a solution. “It’s a difficult situation and it’s a concern,” Fortunati said.

Fifa insisted all 12 venues would be ready in time and promised a “detailed update” on Thursday following a meeting of the local organising committee at the Maracana. “As said previously, the World Cup will be played in 12 venues. Fifa, the organising committee, the federal government and the respective host cities are working together this week in Rio de Janeiro to find solutions to the remaining challenges,” said a spokeswoman.

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