SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA’s top World Cup official is satisfied with the pace of work at the stadium in the western Brazilian city of Cuiaba even though a delay in the delivery of seats prompted the venue’s inauguration to be postponed this week.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said Wednesday that local organizers shouldn’t face major problems finalizing the Arena Pantanal in time for the World Cup. The stadium is one of the three yet to be completed less than two months before the tournament’s opener.
Valcke said it’s important all seats are installed by May 5, but he is “fine” and “happy” with what he saw at the venue that will host four World Cup matches.
Organizers canceled this weekend’s official inauguration because some 5,000 seats were not delivered on time for the 41,000-capacity stadium. Officials said they hope to officially open the venue in mid-May, about a month before the World Cup opener. The venue staged its first official match earlier this month, but only half of the seats were in place at the time.
“There is no major issue,” Valcke said of the Arena Pantanal. “It’s just work to be finished and just to make sure that we can run some test events and we can be ready for the time we will receive the stadium from the city. I’m fine, I’m happy with Cuiaba and as long as we keep this date of the 5th of May for all the seats installation and some additional work which has to be done.”
Valcke began a tour of host cities with “potential issues” regarding their preparations on Tuesday.
In his visit to Sao Paulo, he said organizers don’t have “a minute” waste to make sure the Itaquerao stadium is ready to host the World Cup opener on June 12. In the southern city of Curitiba, where 27,000 seats are yet to be installed at the Arena da Baixada, he said there is “still lots to do inside and outside” the stadium.
“We are exactly 50 days away from the World Cup,” Valcke said in Cuiaba. “You are not talking anymore about moving any game from a stadium to another one. You are not talking about moving a (host) city to another one. We have 64 games to be played in Brazil and all these games will be played as we have on the match schedule.”
He stressed local organizers have no other option other than get their venues ready.
“There are people who have bought tickets, not only in Brazil, but all around the world,” he said. “So you can imagine that what we are doing is just to make sure that all is there for all these hundreds of thousands of people coming to Brazil to watch the games.”
As in most World Cup stadiums, infrastructure work around the Arena Pantanal was far from complete, but Valcke said he was assured it would all be completed in time.
“We got confirmation and the commitment from the city that this work, which will be used by the people coming to Cuiaba for the World Cup games, will be ready to make sure that the movement of people will be as smooth as possible during the World Cup.”
Valcke will visit the northeastern city of Fortaleza on Thursday to check the site of its fan fest, the event which allows people without tickets to watch matches for free in public areas. On Friday, he will participate in the board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee.
Filipe de Almeida of AP partner agency SNTV contributed to this report.