FIFA threat to Brazilian World Cup city

Stadium delay could see key venue scrapped - February deadline agreed

Arena da Baixada taken in December (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Arena da Baixada taken in December (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

FIFA has threatened to pull the plug on a stadium at this year's World Cup in Brazil as construction slips further and further behind schedule.

The tournament starts in just five months but one of the key venues - the Arena da Baixada - is understood to be only 90% complete, with little progress made since November when officials declared it was 88% finished.

On a rescheduled visit this week, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke warned the stadium, in the city of Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Parana, could be excluded from the showpiece event.

“Coaches will go to the city where they will play and it is essential to know what will happen,” said Valcke. “The organizing committee, FIFA and the city of Curitiba will have to decide if the city is ready to host the World Cup.”

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FIFA has now given builders a new deadline of 18 February to show a marked improvement in the stadium.

Valcke, on a tour of stadiums, was forced to change his itinerary after word emerged about the problems at the Arena da Baixada. He had planned to visit the jungle city of Manaus.

The Arena de Baixada venue, home to Atletico Paranaense, is being expanded for the World Cup with new seats added alongside the pitch and capacity raised to 40,000.

But progress has been the slowest among the six arenas still under construction.

The Curitiba stadium, a joint venture between soccer team Atletico Paranaense and local government, has been complicated by financial disputes and confusion over its design. The delays pushed costs to renovate the arena up 44% to 265m reais ($112m). As recently as last month stadium developers said they’d be finished by February even though seats had yet to be fitted and the area where the pitch was to be laid was covered with mounds of gravel. The building will hold 41,456 fans.

“We cannot organize a match without a stadium,” said Valcke. “This has reached a critical point.”

The stadium is scheduled to host four games, starting with a matchup between Iran and Nigeria on June 16.

 

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