Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO – President Dilma Rousseff has “guaranteed” Brazil’s airports will be prepared to welcome visitors for the World Cup, which starts on 12 June in São Paulo.

Rousseff made the comments on her weekly Café com a Presidenta national radio programme following criticism that a number of airports which were promised to be completed for the key football tournament remain unfinished.

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Anadolu Agency

SAO PAULO – Just 41% of projects promised by the Brazilian government for the World Cup tournament are complete as the final 30-day countdown to the tournament begins, a report said on Tuesday.

Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said it had checked all 167 World Cup projects announced by the government in 2010 and found that just 68 were ready.

A further 88 projects are unfinished or will be left until after the key football tournament. Eleven have been abandoned altogether, the newspaper said.

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The construction company behind the Arena São Paulo stadium that will open this year’s World Cup on 12 June was given an ultimatum on Wednesday to implement four emergency safety orders to allow a partial suspension on work at the site to be lifted.

Arena São Paulo. Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters/1Apr14

Arena São Paulo on 1 April 2014. Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters.

Earlier this week an inspection by fire services, ordered after a fatal accident on Saturday, found 26 irregularities and work was halted on part of the stadium.

A local public prosecutor asked fire services to provide a shortlist of top-priority emergency measures that needed be taken to get the stadium back on track, in response to which four major demands were set out.

In an interview with GloboNews, local prosecutor José Carlos de Freitas warned that if steps were not taken, “that partial ban on these areas, in theory, could extend to even when the stadium is officially open or mid World Cup.”

Odebrecht, the overall construction company behind the stadium, vowed to carry out necessary actions; the authorities will reassess the site next week.

Delays and safety concerns at the Arena São Paulo, also known as the Arena Corinthians or the Itaquerão, were already proving to be the biggest headache for tournament organisers FIFA.

To the wire

The stadium’s revised delivery schedule is for mid-April, but construction overseers had already admitted work will not be completely finished by then.

But this was further complicated by Saturday’s tragedy where a worker fell eight metres while working on the stadium’s temporary stands. He later died of his injuries.

Fábio Hamilton da Cruz became the third person to perish at the stadium, after two men died in November when a crane manoeuvring a section of roofing collapsed.

There have now been eight deaths at World Cup stadiums in the country.

Some have expressed concerns that construction is being rushed to meet deadlines and safety concerns, even after the two November fatalities, have been left lacking.

Two other stadiums, in Curitiba and Cuiabá are also way behind schedule, however Cuiabá’s Arena Pantanal was officially opened on Wednesday, 71 days before the start of the tournament and just hours before its first test match.

Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada has now held its first game, albeit with just a fraction of seating areas open.

FIFA also considers Porto Alegre unfinished, although it has now been official opened. Some lingering concerns about temporary structure remain.

UPDATE: Speaking from South Africa (host of the 2010 World Cup) on Wednesday, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said that neither FIFA nor Brazil were ready for the World Cup: “If you want me to summarise, we are not ready.”

Beset by problems

The run-up for the World Cup, which should have been a time of growing expectation for the “Land of Football”, has been beset by major delays, budget overruns, and a slew of scaled-down or scrapped infrastructure projects.

Although smaller than those seen last June during the Confederations Cup, street protests have also continued and a major demonstration is planned for opening night in São Paulo.

The government had promised a swift response to any vandalism or other violence and police have undergone special training for general crowd control, protests and riots.

New loosely-worded “anti-terror” legislation being rushed through parliament to target potential troublemakers has been criticised by civil rights groups as too general and unnecessary.

There has also been particular concern at some World Cup stadiums over temporary structures for security and hospitality.

Work to install a telecommunications network required by the sports broadcaster and other media has not even begun in São Paulo, reports say. The network should have been in place 90 days before the start of the tournament for testing.

Despite recently saying that it was confident the remaining unfinished work on stadiums would be ready in time, FIFA has now ordered all stadiums not to stage matches after 20 May, according to Globo Esportes.

Five-time World Champions and gunning for a record-extending sixth title, Brazil has already announced a six-week hiatus in its football championship from 1 June while the World Cup, last held in the country in 1950, is being held.

Written for Anadolu Agency – SÃO PAULO – 2 April 2014

FIFA inspection. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters.

FIFA and the LOC will now inspect the six stadiums not used in last year’s Confederations Cup. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters.

With less than three months until kick-off in Brazil, FIFA and the Brazil 2014 Local Organising Committee (LOC) began a final, week-long round of operational inspections on Thursday for stadiums hosting this year’s World Cup, even though three of the venues have yet to be completed.

After visiting the six stadiums which hosted last year’s World Cup warm-up, the Confederations Cup, in January, the final round of inspections will visit the remaining six stadiums – in São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiabá, Manaus and Natal.

LOC stadiums operations manager Tiago Paes said the inspection tour was a final chance to “consolidate operational plans” and would allow the various World Cup departments, from security to catering, to make sure everything planned over the last few years is in place.

First on the list is São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, also known as the Itaquerão, which will host the World Cup opener on 12 June between Brazil and Croatia.

But the 65,800-capacity stadium is now causing the biggest headache for soccer’s world governing body, as it is still at least six weeks from completion.

The Brazilian construction company working on the stadium, Odebrecht, says it will be operational by 15 April, but Corinthians, the soccer team behind the work, says some items will take longer, including some VIP boxes and the all-important big screens.

Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada and the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá are also as yet unfinished and work on both is expected to go to the wire.

Even if the stadiums are completed on time, there are concerns that temporary structures, such as those set to house broadcast teams and sponsors, may not be.

FIFA said its secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, is expected back in Brazil next week for a “series of meetings” to discuss World Cup preparations. Inspection teams are expected to report their findings back to him on 27 March in Rio de Janeiro.

The twelve stadiums were meant to have been ready by December 2013 to meet FIFA’s deadline and allow for the venues to be tested but when the New Year arrived, six of the stadiums were not ready.

Host cities are now working round the clock to get both stadiums and associated infrastructure projects ready, or at least in some working form, for this June’s much-anticipated tournament.

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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has publicly condemned two recent incidents in which figures from Brazilian football were racially abused.

In a sequence of messages on Twitter published on Sunday, Ms Rousseff said that Brazilian football had been ‘stained’ by last week’s events, and that racism was ‘inadmissible’ in the world’s biggest black population outside Africa.

Brazil Santos midfielder Arouca. Photo by Wikipedia/CC/jikatu.

Santos midfielder Arouca was called a “monkey” by football fans. Photo by Wikipedia/CC/jikatu.

Marcos Arouca da Silva, a defensive midfielder for Santos football club known as “Arouca”, made headlines last Thursday when football fans at a game between Santos and rivals Mogi Mirim hurled abuse at him, chanting “macacão” or “big monkey”.

On Friday the São Paulo Football Federation banned Mogi Mirim from hosting games at their stadium, the “Romildão”, until an investigation into the incident – and any subsequent disciplinary process – has been concluded.

Arouca later released a statement labelling the episode as “unacceptable”, emphasizing that there was “no place” in football for racism.

In a second incident last week, referee Márcio Chagas reported he had been subject to a racist attack following a game in the country’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.

“Márcio and Arouca have all my solidarity, and that of all Brazilians. It is inadmissible that Brazil, the biggest black nation outside Africa, should live with scenes of racism,” President Rousseff wrote on her official Twitter account.

She continued: “Let’s stand up to racism! I have agreed with the UN and FIFA that our #WorldCupofWorldCups will also be a #Cup for Peace and a #CupAgainstRacism.”

Football racism also made the headlines in Brazil earlier in February, when fans at a Copa Libertadores match between Brazilian club Cruzeiro and Peru’s Real Garcilaso chanted “monkey” at black Brazilian midfielder Paulo César Fonseca, better known as “Tinga”, in the Peruvian city of Huancayo.

In a little over three months Brazil will begin hosting this year’s edition of the World Cup in twelve host cities spread across South America’s largest country, whose 200 million-strong population is one of the most racially-mixed in the world.

This includes the Bahian city of Salvador, where 27.8% of the population is black and 51.7% mixed race, according to the country’s most-recent 2010 census.

Sunday also saw the ninth World Cup stadium being inaugurated in the Amazonas state capital, Manaus. Three other stadiums – in Cuiabá, Curitiba and São Paulo – have yet to be finished and have caused serious concern for World Cup organizers FIFA.

Story written for Anadolu Agency