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Oct 7, 2013

FIFA inspects Brazil progress

SAO PAULO -- FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke began his latest inspection tour of World Cup host cities Monday amid uncertainty about whether Brazil will be able to deliver the final six stadiums by the December deadline established by FIFA.

Valcke is visiting the southern city of Porto Alegre and will then move to the wetlands city of Cuiaba, where local organisers are still trying to finalise a bidding process for the seats at the new stadium.

There were problems in the southern city of Curitiba, too, where construction was halted because of workers' safety concerns.

Brazilian organisers say all stadiums will be completed in time despite the recent setbacks.

Valcke has made it clear FIFA will not accept the same delays that plagued stadium construction before the Confederations Cup earlier this year, when only two of the six venues were delivered on time. Some were ready just before the start of the warm-up tournament, keeping organisers from hosting the desired number of test events.

Of the six stadiums yet to be completed, five were less than 90 percent finished by September, according to recent government numbers. The venues with the most advanced work were in Natal and in Sao Paulo, home of the World Cup opener on June 12.

The stadium in Cuiaba was set to be completed by the FIFA deadline but the problem with the seats has prompted concerns.

Local officials were forced to cancel the initial bidding process for the seats after public prosecutors alleged they were overpriced, prompting a rush to find a new supplier. Local organisers said they want the new seats delivered by Dec. 20, just days before the FIFA deadline.

In Curitiba, organisers were still trying to reverse a judge's order that suspended construction after an inspection team deemed the site unsafe for workers. The work was stopped on Thursday and a new inspection took place Friday after officials said the safety problems were solved, but it remains unclear when the judge will issue a new ruling. Valcke was visiting Porto Alegre and Cuiaba accompanied by local World Cup organising committee members Ronaldo and Bebeto, former Brazil stars. Brazil's Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, was also expected to participate.

In both cities, Valcke was expected to meet with high-ranking government officials in charge of the local preparations. He will also check on infrastructure work being done at the host cities.

Valcke is also giving away symbolic tickets to representatives of the construction workers, who will be allowed to watch one match for free at the venues.

The secretary general will participate in a board meeting of the local World Cup committee in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

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