- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA and Brazilian organizers are downplaying the fact that the final test event at the stadium hosting the World Cup opener won’t be held with a capacity crowd.

Only about 40,000 people will be allowed at the Itaquerao for a Brazilian league match on Sunday, meaning that organizers will not be able to fully test the stadium before the inaugural match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke last week said it was “vital” to test the Itaquerao “under full match conditions, including the temporary seats.” But only some of the 20,000 temporary seats installed for the opener will be used because of safety concerns raised by local authorities.

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FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee said that ideally they would have preferred to have a full crowd of nearly 70,000 people on Sunday, but noted that the test event will still be “extremely important” to help making sure the stadium will be ready for the opener.

The match between Corinthians and Botafogo will mark the final test event at the Itaquerao, which has been among the most problematic venues ahead of the World Cup.

“Ideally, FIFA and the local organizing committee would have preferred to operate this event as a full capacity match,” they said in a statement. “However, the match will still be extremely important to train and integrate the local (teams of organizers).”

FIFA usually wants three test events in each venue before a tournament such as the World Cup, but it had to make exceptions in Brazil because of the chronic delays in most of the stadiums.

Football’s governing body says test events are crucial so officials can monitor all operational areas that will be used during World Cup matches, including the temporary facilities needed for the media, communications and technical teams. Organizers also monitor the movement of fans outside and inside the venues, so having a full crowd is key for a proper test.

“Not having a final test the way it should, with a capacity crowd, represents a risk both in terms of safety and comfort - things that a stadium like the Itaquerao must have,” said Adriano Pires, an infrastructure analyst in Brazil.

“Are the electrical installations adequate? Are the bathrooms operating normally? And a host of other questions must be answered and for this, full test events are necessary,” he said.

The other test event at the Itaquerao happened on May 18. Local organizers said they were mostly satisfied with the results at the time even though they admitted there were some problems, including a leaky roof.

Following that match, FIFA opened an exception and requested another test event “in order to ensure the entire infrastructure is tested at full capacity ahead of the opening match.”

But local authorities this week did not allow the sale of all tickets needed to pack the stadium because of possible problems involving rival fan groups. Only one section of the nearly installed temporary seats will be used.

FIFA and the local organizing committee said “structural tests by the constructor were made at both identical temporary stands,” and stressed that the permit for one of them was granted by local authorities. They claim that not having one of the stands tested in a match before the opener will not be a problem.

Sunday’s match will have FIFA and local organizers in charge of most of the areas that have to be tested before the opener.

“Sunday’s test event will review vehicle, pedestrian and public transport accesses to the stadium and internal flows such as spectator facilities,” their statement said.

The Itaquerao will host five other World Cup matches, including one of the semifinals. Constructors already said that part of the roof will only be fully finished after the World Cup.


Associated Press writer Stan Lehman contributed to this report.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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