- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA’s top official in charge of the World Cup is returning to Brazil to inspect host cities as the country continues to struggle to finish its stadiums just four months before the tournament begins.

FIFA said Wednesday that Secretary General Jerome Valcke will visit three venues beginning Sunday, and will help decide whether the southern city of Curitiba will remain in the showcase event amid delays in stadium construction.

One of Valcke’s stops will be in the jungle city of Manaus, which last week reported the third death of a worker in less than a year. The stadium had been expected to be inaugurated this weekend but won’t be ready in time.

Valcke will also visit the capital, Brasilia, and the southern city of Porto Alegre before attending a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup teams in the southern city of Florianopolis. His visit ends with a board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee Friday, also in Florianopolis.

Five of the 12 World Cup stadiums promised to be completed by the end of 2013 remain under construction. Six venues were ready for the Confederations Cup last year, and of the other six only the Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal has been finished.

The other host cities with unfinished stadiums are Porto Alegre, Cuiaba and Sao Paulo, which is to host the World Cup’s opening match June 12. Work on Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao stadium was delayed because of a crane collapse that damaged part of the venue and killed two workers in November.

The worker who died in Manaus last week was dissembling a crane that was used to install the stadium’s roof. The accident was the seventh overall at Brazil’s World Cup stadiums.

Organizers in Manaus said work was not stopped because of the accident, but they will not be able to finish the Arena da Amazonia this weekend as initially planned. Valcke’s inspection visit there will be Sunday.

The secretary general is not expected to travel to Curitiba, where last month he gave an ultimatum to local officials and said they have until Tuesday to show that work at their stadium can be finished in time for the World Cup. Local organizers have been saying they are optimistic about the pace of construction, but say there is a need to secure a government loan to be able to increase the number of workers at the site.

Brazil’s sports minister has said the government is working to make sure the loan is approved, but negotiations have not been finalized.


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