Stadium debates rage as FIFA returns to Brazil
Heated debate on the cost of temporary World Cup stadium facilities saw lawmakers in the southern Brazilian state of Porto Alegre back a plan for tax incentives late Tuesday to pay for temporary stadium facilities.
Lawmakers voted to pass a package offering the incentives to private firms stumping up around $11 million for facilities at the Beira Mar stadium after the local prefecture had warned the stadium might otherwise have to pull out of the World Cup.
The move canme as FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke prepared for Thursday's board meeting of the World Cup Organizing Committee (LOC) in Rio de Janeiro.
Valcke arrived back in Brazil on Monday and tweeted optimism that, despite three stadiums still not being finished, things would be all right on the night -- a regular refrain as Brazil has struggled to get ready for the event.
"Good to be back in Brazil. 80 days to the #World Cup," Valcke had tweeted on arrival, before insisting: "Together with the LOC & Brazil, we'll find solutions for the remaining challenges."
Those "challenges" are myriad, as the clock ticks down to kick-off at a Sao Paulo stadium slated to set the ball rolling on June 12 but still unfinished following a fatal accident last November.
Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Cuiaba remain unfinished but Tuesday's focus was Porto Alegre after the southern venue warned Monday that money has to be found for temporary facilities or it may withdraw.
Regional lawmakers were debating into the night with one, Paulo Odone, complaining: "What we are seeing here is the theatre of the absurd.
"The only contract that exists regarding (who pays for) temporary structures is between FIFA and Sport Club Internacional," the Porto Alegre stadium owner.
"There is no responsibility either for the state or the prefecture in this matter," stormed Odone, as lawmakers debated whether public money needed to be put into the hat for facilities such as press areas.
Across Brazil, local authorities in the 12 venue cities are doing all they can to limit spending of public money on the World Cup with many citizens already protesting at a bill topping $11 billion.
Two years after saying the World Cup hosts merited a "kick up the backside" for being slow out of the starting blocks in preparations for the event, Valcke heads to Thursday's LOC board meeting with such doubts still hanging in the air.
- Good news -
Tuesday brought one piece of good news for Sao Paulo as the city's Corinthians Arena received the first two-thirds of a $175 million loan from state development bank BNDES.
In Brazil, the race to complete the venues has seen six miss FIFA's original deadline of December 31 and semantic gymnastics on the need for stadiums to be, if not totally "ready" or "delivered", then at least "inaugurated."
In the case of Porto Alegre, the stadium was inaugurated last month by President Dilma Rousseff.
But urban works in the vicinity have to be completed, and stadium owners Internacional warned Monday that more cash is still needed.
Curitiba almost dropped out before Valcke spared it the axe last month after assurances that the stadium there would make it after drafting hundreds of extra construction workers to speed things up.
Valcke praised another laggard, Manaus, as "fantastic" last month but only last week local organisers had to insist media reports of fertiliser damaging the pitch were exaggerated.
Amazon region World Cup coordinator Miguel Capobiango told Tuesday's Lance sports daily that "we had a lot of problems finishing (the stadium) and called on the (construction) firm to improve certain things."
Test matches held at the Amazonia Arena -- where England will face Italy -- earlier this month threw up a range of teething problems including leaks and malfunctioning toilets even before the grass issue sprang up.
If the construction issues have provided FIFA with a headache, the Brazilian league is also fretting about where to play 28 domestic matches after the stadiums and club venues which will serve as World Cup training centers are handed over to organisers in May.
As the unfinished venues scramble to reach the final delivery stage, Valcke will face the media on Thursday and update them on the state of play with 77 days to go.
- Social problems in stark relief -
Hosting the event has, if nothing else, throw into stark relief Brazil's social problems -- not least racism.
Tuesday saw Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo say fans who barrack players racially should be banned from matches.
"We must punish vigorously those who commit racist acts," said Rebelo.
"If he is Brazilian, he should be banned from Brazilian grounds. If he is a foreigner, he should be banned from entering the country.
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