- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - The World Cup stadium in the Brazilian host city of Cuiaba is staging its first official match with only half of its seats installed and construction work still underway.

The Arena Pantanal will open on Wednesday with a Brazilian Cup match between Santos and Mixto, but work is far from complete at the stadium, one of three yet to be declared ready for the World Cup in two months’ time.

The official inauguration is set for April 26.

The opening match in Cuiaba comes a day after labor officials prevented construction from resuming in part of the stadium hosting the World Cup opener in Sao Paulo. The decision was made because of safety concerns following a worker’s death over the weekend, the third at the venue and seventh overall.

As in most World Cup stadiums in Brazil, infrastructure work around the Arena Pantanal continues at full speed, with bulldozers, cranes and dump trucks still at the site as hundreds of workers try to finish access roads, sidewalks and temporary structures.

Wednesday’s match will have limited attendance because organizers could only install about 20,000 of the 41,000 seats at the stadium. Fans will only occupy the lower seating sections.

The delay came in part because the initial bidding process for the seats was suspended over prosecutors’ claims that they were overpriced. A court battle ensued over the suppliers and the installation took longer than expected to begin.

The match is not going to be considered an official test event for local the World Cup organizing committee in part because not all security measures will be in place.

The stadium was one of the six that were not finished by the end of last year as expected by FIFA.

Sao Paulo was already behind schedule even before the death of a 23-year-old worker on Saturday, which prompted labor officials to halt the installation of the temporary seats that will be needed for the Brazil-Croatia opener. Work isn’t expected to resume until next week as constructors scramble to add safety features to the site.

Local organizers and FIFA said the work stoppage is not expected to significantly delay the stadium’s date of completion. Local officials said it will be inaugurated in April, but FIFA expects the stadium fully ready only in mid-May, about a month before the opener.

The Arena da Baixada, in the southern city of Curitiba, is also expected to be ready in May. But last week the local government’s watchdog group recommended a halt on public financing for the stadium’s renovation until organizers can explain alleged irregularities in the stadium’s budget.

FIFA almost excluded Curitiba from the tournament earlier this year because of the delays at the stadium.


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