Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Sports officials stress Cup safety after Brazil fire

AFP, BRASILIA

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke smiles on a visit to the construction site of the National Stadium, which is to host the 2014 World Cup, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Senior sports officials insisted on Monday that safety would be a priority at Brazil’s upcoming soccer World Cup and Olympics, in the wake of a nightclub fire that killed 231 people.

“What happened is the most horrible thing that can happen,” FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Brazil after Sunday’s deadly inferno in the southern town of Santa Maria.

“However, it has nothing to do with the security within the stadiums,” he said, ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup to be held in Brazil from June 15 to 30 this year, and the FIFA Soccer World Cup to be staged next year.

“We have an emergency plan in place to evacuate a full stadium within eight minutes,” Valcke said.

“There are dedicated people in charge and trained for disaster management as part of the overall security concept,” he added, insisting that what happened “cannot be compared to the organization of the FIFA World Cup security plan.”

Valcke underscored his faith in organizers of both events.

“We have full confidence in the local organizational committee and the authorities. We are just sad for the families of the victims,” he said.

In Lausanne, Switzerland, a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee also stressed that safety was a top priority for all involved in planning and staging the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

“We are working in close cooperation with the organizing committees of the Games to assure ourselves that the safety rules meet international standards,” the spokesperson said. “We do not doubt that Rio 2016 will offer a secure environment for the fans, athletes and those working for the Games.”

Rio 2016 director of communications Carlos Villanova said the fatal nightclub fire could have happened anywhere in the world.

“It has nothing to do with Brazil’s capability to organize large scale events, as has been shown over decades with the Rio Carnival and the New Year’s Day fireworks on Copacabana beach,” that each year draw up to two million people without incident, Villanova said.

As families and friends held the first funerals for their loved ones who perished in Santa Maria, police said they had arrested the two owners of the nightclub, as well as two musicians who starred in the ill-fated pyrotechnic show blamed for sparking the tragedy.

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