BRASILIA Brazil's capital city, struggling to finish a new soccer stadium in time for an upcoming dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup, is turning to a surprising partner for help: the United Nations.
The Brasilia government signed this week a 35 million reais ($17.61 million) agreement with two U.N. agencies under which they will procure services and items such as tents, generators and security cameras for the stadium, a U.N. official told Reuters on Wednesday.
The contract is one of the clearest signs yet that Brazil is running behind on the construction of stadiums and other key infrastructure for upcoming sporting events. Brasilia is due in June to host the Confederations Cup, widely considered a warm-up to test logistics and prevent any major hiccups at the World Cup, which will take place a year later.
The U.N.'s main advantage: It can acquire goods and services without going through the complex and lengthy procurement process required by the Brazilian government.
With the Mané Garrincha stadium only 87 percent complete, and a rapidly approaching April 21 deadline imposed by world soccer body FIFA for its delivery, time is of the essence.
"With the short time frame and the need to focus on finishing the stadium, the federal district government was not able to do the procurement on time with public bidding," said Arnaud Peral, the U.N. Development Program's deputy representative in Brazil.
Some of the temporary structures to be procured by the U.N. agencies for the Confederations Cup, which pits winners of continental championships against each other, will remain in place for the seven World Cup games that will be played in Brasilia a year later, he said.
Boaz Paldi, a UNDP spokesman in New York, said the arrangement with Brazil was "not entirely unprecedented" and the value of the contract could rise.
He said the UNDP has helped with past projects related to the Pan-American Games and the agency would gain "visibility" in Brazil due to its participation.
A SHOWCASE FOR BRAZIL
A spokeswoman for Federal District of Brasilia's Governor Agnelo Queiroz said the governor as a rule does not comment on the city's contracts.
Brazil hopes the Confederations Cup, World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games will be an opportunity to showcase it status as an emerging power and the world's seventh largest economy.
Getting the event off without hitches and on time is such a priority for the President Dilma Rousseff's government that "political pressure" was brought to bear on local authorities in Brasilia to get it right with outside help if necessary, an official source involved in the negotiations said.
Brazil has tapped the organizational experience of U.N. agencies before, for last year's Rio+20 world climate change conference where the UNDP helped to ensure transparency in the procurement process, as well as accessibility for people with disabilities, environmental sustainability and social inclusion.
FIFA has warned Brazil that it cannot afford any further delays in getting the venues ready.
Brasilia's new 70,000-capacity stadium will be the second-largest venue for the World Cup in 2014. But its roof is not finished, fittings must still be added and the grass has yet to be planted on the pitch.
The stadium will be tried out with two test games, the final of the local Brasilia soccer tournament on May 18 and a second to be played on May 25.
($1 = 1.9873 Brazilian reais)
(Additional reporting by Jeferson Ribeiro in Brasilia and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Brian Winter and Cynthia Osterman)