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New city to rise around Brazil World Cup venue
As Brazil builds new venues for the 2014 World Cup, one project stands out for its outsized ambition: the Pernambuco stadium is set to be the centerpiece of a whole new city.
Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht obtained a 30-year concession to build so-called "Cup City" some 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside the northeastern city of Recife.
The stadium, one of four being built from scratch, is designed to be a multi-purpose arena that can host trade fairs and conventions as well as sporting events years after the World Cup has been and gone.
Known as Arena Pernambuco, it has been under construction since 2010 at a cost of some $265 million.
Odebrecht plans to build an eco-friendly "smart city" for some 30,000 people, complete with skyscrapers, business and residential areas, parks and a university in a 240-hectare (593 acre) area around the stadium.
"It is the most ambitious project among the 12 World Cup arenas, there is nothing quite like it," said Ricardo Leitao Teixeira, head of Recife's organizing committee. "It is the only one that goes beyond the construction or upgrading of an arena."
The project will be a tremendous boost for northeastern Brazil, which has long been a poor cousin to the country's economically vibrant south.
According to Odebrecht's website, there will be plenty of room for pedestrians and cyclists in Cup City. Almost half the land will be set aside for open areas and public parks, and a vast array of cameras connected to a police central command will provide 24-hour security.
Jose Ayres, engineering director for the Odebrecht project, says young people lured by Cup City's university will hopefully end up staying on in the area to find jobs because they enjoy the lifestyle.
The stadium is being built outside San Lorenzo da Mata, a picturesque town of narrow streets and small shops that looks like a postcard from the past.
Of more than $13 billion Brazil estimates it will spend on hosting the World Cup, $2.2 billion has been allocated on government and private sector projects in Recife, which plays host to five World Cup games.
Roads between Recife's hotel area, where most of the visitors will be staying, and the stadium will be broadened, cutting the trip from 90 minutes at present to just half-an-hour.
"One can see that the World Cup is changing the life oF San Lorenzo. You can see the development," said Almir Barros, a 40-year welder who spent most of his life in the region.
Arena Pernambuco was meant to be ready in time for the World Cup, but sports authorities decided it could also be one of the six host arenas for the 2013 Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal that will draw champions of the five continents.
Some 4,000 workers are laboring for 22 hours a day in two shifts to complete the main stadium structure. Once complete, the work day will expand to 24 hours as electrical wiring and telecommunications gear is installed.
"The schedule is tight and any slip will be hard to correct," Ayres warned.
Recife is making a colossal effort to convince FIFA, world football's governing body, that it will be ready in time for next year's event.
"We have to convince FIFA, not only say it but convince them," said Leitao.
FIFA must decide in November if Recife is ready to host the Confederations Cup, which kicks off on June 15.
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