FIFA says a lot of work left before World Cup

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FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) - World Cup organizers must keep working at full speed to guarantee Brazil will be ready to host football’s showcase event in June, FIFA said Friday.

After spending “an important week” in the country inspecting host cities and taking time trying to solve preparation problems, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said it’s clear there’s still “a lot of work to do” in the 12 host cities that will host the tournament in less than four months.

“We are far beyond the normal speed limit you can have on the road and this will be the case until June,” Valcke said. “We are working at full speed.”

The comments came after the board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee, which followed a FIFA-run workshop with representatives of the 32 teams participating in the World Cup. More than 20 coaches attended the event in the southern city of Florianopolis to discuss organizational issues related to the tournament.

The biggest decision by FIFA was related to the southern city of Curitiba, which was in danger of being dropped from the tournament because of significant delays in stadium construction. Valcke announced Tuesday the city will be allowed to host matches even though the stadium won’t be ready until mid-April.

One of Valcke’s stops was Porto Alegre, also in southern Brazil, where the president of the club in charge of the Beira-Rio stadium said there was a risk the venue would be unavailable for the World Cup because of a dispute over who will pay for the temporary facilities required by FIFA outside the venues.

After meeting with Valcke on Monday, local officials said they came up with a financing solution.

The Beira-Rio was one of five stadiums yet to be finalized even though Brazil promised all 12 venues would be ready by the end of last year. The four others are in Curitiba, Cuiaba, Manaus and Sao Paulo. The Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo will host the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.

Another problem FIFA is examining is related to fanfests, which allows people without tickets to watch matches for free on large screens in public areas. FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said he was surprised to find out that officials in the northeastern city of Recife don’t want to spend money on it.

Weil said he remains hopeful Recife will reconsider and is willing to sit down with officials to try to find a solution, but adds that if the event is cancelled for good, FIFA will consider suing for breach of contract. All 12 cities signed a contract promising to host the fanfests.

Organizers used former Brazil star Ronaldo to try to get across the point about their importance.

“We know only a small portion of the fans will be able to be inside the stadiums,” he said. “It’s important we can guarantee that the fanfests happen so everyone can be part of the celebrations.”

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