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Mar 5, 2013

FIFA's Valcke hints Maracana is a concern

SAO PAULO -- The pace of progress at Maracana is apparently worrying FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who began a tour to check on Brazil's preparations for the Confederations Cup on Tuesday.

Three months ahead of the tournament, Valcke began a three-day visit to inspect host cities and noted his biggest concern was related to the famed stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final June 30.

"The city which I will be visiting in two days is the one that worries me the most," Valcke told Brazilian media accompanying his visit to the northeastern city of Recife.

Valcke's trip ends Thursday in Rio, when he will also participate in a board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee.

Maracana, which will also host the World Cup final in 2014, was one of the stadiums not delivered in December as FIFA originally wanted. All six Confederations Cup venues now have an April 15 deadline to be ready.

Recife also wasn't able to finish the Arena Pernambuco by December, but Valcke said he was satisfied with the work at the venue ahead of the warm-up tournament.

"We have seen a huge effort to deliver the arena by the end of March. This is great," Valcke said. "We want Recife to organize test events before the Confederations Cup. It is for the best interest of all, Brazil, the competition and FIFA."

On Wednesday, Valcke will be in Belo Horizonte, which faced problems at the inauguration of the Mineirao Stadium this year, including a faulty field.

The board meeting in Rio will mark 100 days before the Confederations Cup. The opener will be in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, on June 15. The tournament of continental champions will also be played in Salvador and Fortaleza.

Recife was one of the cities in danger of not making it as a host city, along with Salvador. They were confirmed just before the tournament's draw last year.

"Even those who did not believe we could make it have helped us," Pernambuco state Gov. Eduardo Campos said. "Their disbelief made us stronger to work even harder to deliver the arena."

Only the Mineirao and the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza have been delivered so far, with the other four venues racing to finish.

The Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador was expected to be completed last week, but local authorities were forced to delay its opening from March 29 to April 7.

Brazil's Sports Ministry says all stadiums will be ready for the Confederations Cup. Organizers said the glitches in the inauguration of the Castelao and the Mineirao have already been solved and the venues are ready.

Valcke's trip began amid a report by Brazil's largest newspaper saying that the government watchdog group was warning that delays on the bidding processes for the purchase of telecommunications equipment may cause problems for the television broadcast during the World Cup.

It also came as Brazil's defense ministry announced that its security plans for the upcoming tournaments have been approved, including measures against cyber threats and terrorist attacks. Details were not made available.

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