- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA is starting a new round of inspections at World Cup stadiums in Brazil as host cities race against the clock to get ready for the tournament that opens in less than three months.

Operational inspections in six stadiums began Thursday, and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke is expected in the country next week for a series of meetings to discuss preparations.

Three stadiums are not yet finished, and infrastructure work in many of the 12 host cities remains far from completed.

FIFA already knows that at least two stadiums won’t be ready until about a month before the tournament starts, including the one hosting the opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.

As FIFA’s officials gathered in Zurich for a meeting of the executive committee, technical teams from football’s governing body and the local organizing committee visited the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo on Thursday. They will also visit the cities of Porto Alegre, Manaus, Natal, Cuiaba and Curitiba in the coming days.

“This inspection tour will be fundamental to consolidate operational plans and for each area to confirm the operations they have planned over the last few years,” said Tiago Paes, the operations manager for stadiums at the local organizing committee.

Constructors at the Itaquerao in Sao Paulo said they will finish their work by April 15, but Corinthians, the team building the stadium, has already said that not everything will be fully ready, including the VIP areas, some finishing details on the roof and the installation of the large screens. The team is responsible for completing most of those tasks.

FIFA only expects the venue to be completed in mid-May, along with the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba.

The wetlands city of Cuiaba also doesn’t have its stadium ready. FIFA’s main concern as the tournament approaches is whether there will be enough time to install the temporary structures needed for technical teams, sponsors and media.

The operational teams had already visited the other six stadiums in January. Members from several different areas are represented in the inspection teams, including communications, security and volunteers.

FIFA said Valcke is scheduled to be in Rio de Janeiro from Monday through Thursday for “a series of meetings regarding” the World Cup.

“This is the last occasion for the organizers to take stock of the operational preparations before the respective FIFA World Cup installations begin to be implemented in all 12 host cities,” FIFA said Thursday in a statement.

Valcke will not visit any host cities this time, but he will participate in the board meeting of the local organizing committee on March 27, when all the reports from the operational teams will be presented and evaluated.

Brazil promised to have all 12 stadiums ready by the end of last year but only the six that were used in last year’s Confederations Cup were finished.


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