FIFA sure Sao Paulo arena will be ready for World Cup
A senior FIFA official said Tuesday that there was no doubt that the opening game of the 2014 World Cup will be held as planned in Sao Paulo's Corinthians stadium currently under construction.
"We don't have any doubt that the opening of the World Cup will take place in the Corinthians stadium," Fulvio Danilas, FIFA general manager, told reporters here.
Danilas was part of a joint team of 40 experts from football's world governing FIFA body and Brazil's Local Organizing Committee (LOC) that began a tour of six of the 12 cities that will stage World Cup games: Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba, Manaus and Natal.
Sao Paulo was the team's first stop for a look at progress in the construction of the 65,000-seat Corinthians arena which began last May with a year's delay and should be finished at the end of next year.
The FIFA-led team refused to comment on the row sparked by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke when he suggested Friday that the Brazilian organizers of the 2014 World Cup needed a "kick up the backside."
"I am sorry to say but things are not working in Brazil," Valcke then said "You have to push yourself, kick your arse and just deliver this World Cup and that is what we will do."
His comments drew a sharp rebuke from Brazil, with Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo saying Valcke would not longer be welcome as a FIFA spokesman.
But in a letter to Rebelo released Tuesday, Valcke apologized, saying he "profoundly regretted that an incorrect interpretation" of his comments had triggered such an angry response from the host country.
"I would like to present my apologies to everyone who was offended by my comments," Valcke said the letter sent to Rebelo.
Valcke clarified that in French the phrase "se donner un coup de pied aux fesses" (to give someone a kick up the backside) only meant "to pick up the pace." The translation into Portuguese used a stronger expression, he added.
Meanwhile, Danilas stressed that the FIFA-LOC team was on a strictly "working visit" and would not get involved in the polemic.
The team members donned white helmets to tour the sprawling construction site, a $463 million dollar project undertaken by Brazil's engineering and construction giant Odebrecht.
"The work is 29 percent complete," Frederico Barbosa, Odebrecht operations manager, told AFP. "The foundations have been laid. The outer structures are up. Everything is going according to plan."
"This a cause for pride," exulted Gilmar Tadeu, the city secretary for the 2014 World Cup. "We think that the contribution of Sao Paulo is rather positive."
He said the Sao Paulo stadium would definitely be completed by the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, FIFA was anxiously waiting for a legislative panel to approve a bill on the World Cup later Tuesday, ahead of its endorsement by a plenary session of both houses of Congress.
Football's governing body has voiced concerned about delays in approving the bill.
One key issue is the current ban on beer sales in Brazilian stadiums.
Sales of alcoholic beverages in sports arenas have been banned in Brazil since 2003, but the bill now making its way through Congress would create an exception, allowing beer to be sold in plastic cups at World Cup matches.
FIFA has an agreement with its sponsor, the US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser, and prohibiting beer sales would cut into the football organization's revenues from the games.
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