Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Valcke inspects Brazilian venues, Blatter challenged

Reuters and AP, London and SAO PAULO, Brazil

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke on Monday visits the under-construction FIFA World Cup venue Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Photo: EPA

The venue that will stage the opening game of this year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June is almost complete, officials said on Monday, even though work has not restarted on the collapsed roof that killed two workers in November last year.

“The stadium is 97 percent ready,” said Andres Sanchez, the former Corinthians president who is overseeing construction of the Arena Corinthians. “We have some things pending because of the accident, but we’ve got the all-clear and by the end of the month they will remove the damaged piece. We will hand the stadium over by April 15.”

World soccer’s ruling body, FIFA, on Monday said it was delighted with the progress made, although secretary-general Jerome Valcke said that the stadium was supposed to be ready last month.

“We are very happy with what we’ve seen today,” Valcke said. “A lot of work has been done, a lot of work has still to be done where the accident took place, but- we are very confident that all is on track.”

The stadium on the outskirts of Sao Paulo is one of the most expensive of the 12 World Cup venues and was one of the last to get started.

The two workers died in November when a crane moving parts of the roof into place toppled over and the delivery date was subsequently put back four months.

The fallen structure — a massive 420-tonne piece of metal tubing — is still where it fell, leaning against one side of a stand.

When asked how the venue could be deemed 97 percent ready when a large part of the roof was still clearly damaged, the stadium’s chief engineer told reporters that the affected area was relatively minor.

“It’s a very small part,” Federico Barbosa said. “Everything else is done or almost done.”

The delays at the venue that will stage the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12 is one of the issues affecting the country’s preparations to host the first World Cup in South America since 1978.

None of the six stadiums that were due to be finished last month were ready on time. Six were completed last year and used in a Confederations Cup test event.

Public transport projects in several cities have also been abandoned or scaled back and there is concern that new terminals at some airports will not be ready.

Valcke said he would only talk about other venues after seeing them. He was to travel to Cuiaba later on Monday and to Curitiba yesterday, before flying to Natal today, where he will attend the opening ceremony of the Arena das Dunas.

He said he would spend a week each month in Brazil until the competition begins.

In other FIFA news, Jerome Champagne on Monday became the first person to declare his candidacy to head the association, saying he will seek the five required nominations.

However, moments after making the announcement, the Frenchman hinted that he might abandon his challenge if FIFA president Sepp Blatter stands for a fifth term.

“We need a different FIFA, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more,” said Champagne, a former diplomat and Blatter adviser who unexpectedly left FIFA in 2010 after 11 years of service.

Before being re-elected unopposed in 2011, Blatter said this would be his final four-year term, but the 77-year-old Swiss has hinted he could go for a fifth term in 2015.

Asked if he could beat Blatter, Champagne said: “No, I don’t think [so]. He is someone of relevance.”

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