TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
SAO PAULO (AP) — A top FIFA executive is giving Brazilian organizers only a few more weeks to show that the stadium in Curitiba will be ready for the World Cup.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke visited the Arena da Baixada on Tuesday, saying the work there is more than late. He said local organizers have until Feb. 18 to demonstrate the job can be completed in time. He declined to guarantee it will be part of the tournament that begins in June.
“What we are expecting is that these technicians will work from now up to the 18th of February and by the 18th of February they will say, ‘OK, guys, it’s fine,'” Valcke said.
Most of the delay at the venue, which was about 90 percent completed, was blamed on difficulties getting funding for the construction. The stadium in the southern city is being built mainly by the local club Atletico Paranaense.
“For the time being, I trust that the decisions that have been made today will give us Curitiba as one of the host cities,” Valcke said in a news conference. “It will be a difficult birth, but at the end we will have a baby.”
Luis Fernandes, Brazil’s deputy sports minister, said that after Tuesday’s visit it was clear something had to be done to guarantee Curitiba as a host city.
“With the current pace of construction the stadium would not be ready in time,” Fernandes said, adding that more workers are expected to be added to the construction site.
The trip to Curitiba was not originally scheduled for this week’s inspection tour by FIFA, but soccer’s governing body added a stop there after receiving the latest construction report from local organizers. Valcke was initially expected to go to the jungle city of Manaus.
The Arena da Baixada was the most delayed among the six that still have to be delivered for the World Cup.
FIFA’s first inspection tour of the year leading to the World Cup began on Monday in Sao Paulo, with Valcke visiting the Itaquerao stadium, where a crane collapse late last year killed two workers and caused significant construction delays.
The Itaquerao, which will host the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, is expected to be ready in mid-April.
On Wednesday, the Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal will be the latest stadium to be delivered. Valcke will be there for the inauguration ceremony along with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazil promised to deliver all 12 by then but only the six that were used during the Confederations Cup were ready. Four of those had already missed the deadline for the warmup tournament this year.
The Arena da Baixada is expected to host four World Cup matches, all in the first stage. The first is Iran vs. Nigeria on June. 16.
Renato Spyrro of AP’s partner agency SNTV contributed to this report from Curitiba.
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