Brazil must up its game to finish work for World Cup: FIFA
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil still has a lot of work to do to finish stadiums and other infrastructure in time for the World Cup and needs to up its game in the 111 days before the kick off, FIFA's Jerome Valcke said on Friday.
"There is a strong demand for tickets, a huge demand from abroad, and we have to be prepared for them in the best possible way," the secretary general of world soccer's governing body told reporters on the last day of FIFA's pre-World Cup workshop.
The warning was yet another one for Brazil as it prepares for the June 12-July 13 tournament. The South American nation has struggled to get ready for the event with four of the 12 stadiums unfinished almost two months after the final deadline.
Valcke said the workshop, at which representatives of the 32 teams discussed logistics and other issues, was an important landmark for Brazil during a week in which the stadium in Porto Alegre opened and Curitiba's host city status was confirmed.
Curitiba had been threatened with exclusion from the tournament but Valcke said it would be ready in time to stage four matches, including one featuring world champions Spain.
"In those two cities there is a lot of work still to be done," Valcke warned. "The stadium in Porto Alegre is more or less ready, the structure is ready, but there is still a lot of work to be done, outside, on the IT projects, in the media center."
The Arena da Baixada in Curitiba is expected to be ready only in mid-May, a month before the first game there. The World Cup kicks off when Brazil face Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
One of the biggest issues to be resolved is who should pay for the temporary grandstands being erected at some stadiums.
Many cities are reluctant to use public money, especially after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets last year to protest against the massive outlay on the tournament.
Porto Alegre sought to get round that this week by passing a law allowing it to seek private funding for seats. The law also allows the seats to be used after the tournament by local authorities.
Brazil's former striker and World Cup winner Ronaldo, who was at the inauguration of the Beira-Rio stadium, said the temporary seats were crucial.
"We can't forget the complementary structures, they are a very important part of the World Cup," he said. "That's why it is so important that we reach an agreement with the host cities as soon as possible."
Another issue is public transport, which is old and insufficient. Several big cities have abandoned or cut back on the original bus lanes, metro lines or tram routes they promised to build ahead of the World Cup.
Valcke acknowledged that some public transport projects will not be finished in time for the finals but stressed the general public will eventually benefit - even if it is long after the teams and tourists have left.
Ronaldo, nevertheless, defended Brazil's huge spending and said the tournament would boost economic growth.
"The World Cup is big business for the country and we have to show the tiny minority that is against the tournament that it is going to leave a legacy for our nation," he said.
The former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan striker is a member of the World Cup local organising committee and an outspoken supporter of the tournament.
(Writing by Andrew Downie; reporting by Tatiana Ramil; Editing by Ken Ferris)