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Dec 4, 2013

Brazil: Stadiums will be done in time

Workers returned to the Arena Corinthians on Monday, the stadium that will host the opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, five days after an accident killed two workers.

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil -- The Brazilian government has brushed aside the importance of more delays in completing 2014 World Cup stadiums, saying that missing FIFA's deadline will not affect the country's ability to successfully host next year's tournament.

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Brazil says the World Cup venues will be completed on time.

A day after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said three stadiums would not be ready in time for the Dec. 31 deadline, Brazilian officials said they actually plan to deliver all six remaining venues after that date.

They claim only three are delayed, with the other three being handed over after the expected date only because of problems accommodating the schedule of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who wants to be present for the ceremonies.

"In every wedding that I attended the bride was late. I've never seen a bride arrive on time. But I've never seen a wedding not happen because of that," Brazil's Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said. "It's probable that there will be a delay here or there, but nothing too significant. What is important is that all of the stadiums will be ready."

FIFA has already said it will have to change plans at the venues because of the delivery delays. FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said the schedule for the release of tickets has already been slightly altered because the seating plans have not been finalised, and football's governing body said other areas will also be affected.

"Due to the reduced timeline, FIFA, the LOC, government and stadium authorities are adjusting the stadium operational program to ensure that the stadiums are delivered and host events prior to the FIFA World Cup without compromising on safety or quality," FIFA said in a statement.

Brazilian officials reiterated there was no reason for concern.

"We are in a much more advanced stage at this point in time than we were before the Confederations Cup," Brazil's deputy sports minister, Luis Fernandes, said. "In March, there were still doubts whether the Maracana would be ready for the final. We are in a much better position now. The only doubt we have is related to the Sao Paulo stadium."

Sao Paulo remains the biggest question mark after a crane collapse last week killed two workers and damaged part of the stadium.

Carlos Kauffmann, the attorney representing crane operator Luiz Antonio da Cruz, said his client told police he'd noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

Kauffmann said Cruz has operated cranes for 34 years and hoisted 37 similar pieces of roofing for the Arena Corinthians without incident.

The attorney said Cruz told police that "he didn't notice any problem. Because if he had noticed a problem, he wouldn't have gone ahead with the operation."

A report on the scale of the damage is expected by the end of the week.

But there is still confusion about the delivery date of the other five stadiums that aren't ready, with the government, local World Cup organisers and FIFA saying different things. The other six World Cup stadiums were ready for the Confederations Cup.

Valcke had said that in addition to Sao Paulo, the southern city of Curitiba and the wetlands city of Cuiaba also would not be ready to deliver their stadiums by the end of the year as expected. He said they would likely be ready in January or February.

Rebelo, the government official in charge of Brazil's preparations for the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, said on Wednesday that the stadium in Porto Alegre was also delayed, and that all six remaining stadiums will be only be delivered in January.

The local World Cup organising committee had said that only Sao Paulo and Curitiba were facing delays, and that Curitiba might not be ready until March.

"They will all be delivered with enough time for the test events that are needed before the World Cup," Rebelo said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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