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May 7, 2013

World Cup stadiums face delays

SAO PAULO -- FIFA again expressed its concern with Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup after local organizers said Tuesday they are facing challenges to meet the deadline for the stadium that will host the tournament's opening game in Sao Paulo.

A day after one of the engineers in charge of the stadium's construction said the venue is not expected to be fully ready by December as FIFA wants, local organizers said they are "looking for solutions" to speed up construction and finish the work on time.

FIFA has stated clearly that it will not tolerate delays with any of the 12 World Cup stadiums. Only two of the six Confederations Cup venues were completed on time. The home of the June 15 opener in Brasilia is yet to be completed.

"The technical teams of FIFA and the local organizing committee have reinforced the tight monitoring on all remaining six FIFA World Cup stadiums not only limited to Sao Paulo," football's governing body said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Tuesday. "FIFA is for sure concerned as it is vital that the firm deadline of December 2013 will be kept."

The main concern in Sao Paulo is the temporary seats which will have to be added to increase the stadium's capacity for the opener in 2014. Twenty thousand seats will be added after the stadium's main structure is ready, improving the capacity to nearly 70,000. The stadium will host six World Cup matches, including the opener and one of the semifinals.

The construction company building the stadium, Odebrecht, has told the AP that it will finish the main structure with 48,000 seats by the December deadline, but chief engineer Frederico Barbosa told the UOL website on Monday that it will likely take more time to add the temporary structures, which could be ready only by February or March.

"The host cities, the federal government and stadium owners have committed to this delivery date and acknowledged that for the FIFA World Cup no comprises can be made on this not to jeopardize the successful staging of football's flagship event," FIFA said. "Something which is not only crucial for FIFA but for the entire host nation."

Sao Paulo officials are the ones responsible for the addition of the temporary seats.

"The local organizing committee knows of the challenges that the host city of Sao Paulo is facing to install the temporary seats in the stadium," the committee said in a statement. "However, the committee has been informed that the city is looking for solutions to accelerate the timetable for the installation so it can deliver the stadium and all the temporary structures by December this year, which is the deadline agreed upon in contract by all six host cities of the Confederations Cup in 2007."

FIFA wants stadiums ready at least six months before tournaments such as the World Cup and the Confederations Cup. This time it had to make an exception ahead of the warm-up tournament because of the series of delays in Brazil.

Only the venues in Fortaleza and Belo Horizonte were ready be last December, and two others also missed the April 15 extension deadline that local organizers had set. The stadium of the Confederations Cup opener in Brasilia will only be delivered on May 18.

FIFA and the local organizing committee said last month that "delays like the ones observed will not be tolerated for the stadiums that will host" World Cup matches. It said "the flexibility observed in the deadlines for the FIFA Confederations Cup will not be the same for the FIFA World Cup, when no exception will be made."

Football's governing body said Tuesday that more than 588,000 tickets have already been sold for the Confederations Cup, including nearly 58,000 for the opener between Brazil and Japan on June 15.

The most sought-after match so far match is Mexico vs. Italy in Rio de Janeiro, with more than 63,000 tickets sold. Almost 61,000 tickets have been bought for the final at the new Maracana Stadium on June 30. Only about 10,000 have been sold for the match between newcomer Tahiti and African Cup champion Nigeria in Belo Horizonte.

The Confederations Cup is played among continental champions plus the host nation and the World Cup champion.

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