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Brazil World Cup City Recife Balks at Funding Fan Area

Soccer’s World Cup organizers -- already considering dropping a Brazilian stadium because of unfinished work -- got a setback from another host site.

The north-eastern coastal city of Recife said it will no longer pay for FIFA’s Fan Fest, an outdoor screening venue for fans without tickets, at this year’s event. The fan zones were popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany and attract thousands of visitors, giving the soccer ruling body’s sponsors an opportunity to promote their brands.

Recife’s World Cup secretary George Braga said the city can’t spare the 11 million reais ($4.6 million), down from an initial estimate of 20 million reais, for the event. The decision comes amid public anger about the amount of money being spent on sporting events in a country with poor health and education provision. Braga said the Fan Fest may still take place if private investors fund it.

“Recife is all in favor of holding the World Cup and is on hand to help in any way it can,” Braga told reporters. “But we’ve been thinking about the Fan Fest and came to the conclusion that we alone cannot bear the costs of it.”

FIFA said it had been working closely with the host cities to ensure that the costs to stage a Fan Fest were kept to the minimum.

“FIFA provides significant financial support in the form of all infrastructural equipment for the event, including top quality screen, stage, sound and lighting as well as promoting the host cities to the FIFA World Cup’s international audience,” the soccer body said in an e-mailed statement

June 12 Kickoff

Brazil’s troubled preparation for the World Cup could be hit by its most embarrassing moment yet: FIFA will tomorrow release its decision on the southern city of Curitiba’s ability to host games.

Stadium construction there has fallen far behind schedule, prompting FIFA to set up a special committee to assess whether it can be prepared in time for the June 12 tournament kickoff.

Last week an official in Curitiba said the stadium would be ready by April 30, six weeks before the start of the World Cup. If it’s decided to remove Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada from the list of 12 host facilities, organizers face having to reschedule the city’s four games and reallocate tickets, several thousand of which have already been sold.

Cuiaba Stadium

Brazil is spending more than 8 billion reais on arenas for the 64-game event, and a further 18 billion reais on related infrastructure, much of which won’t be ready on time. Fans attending games in the farming region of Cuiaba are likely to be welcomed by a trench that starts from the city’s airport and cuts through several kilometers of downtown. The trench is part of a World Cup light railway project that won’t now be completed until well after the event.

Separately, media outlets citing a December report by public prosecutors said a fire in October caused structural damage to the Cuiaba stadium, a greater impact than those responsible for the construction there acknowledged at the time. FIFA said it was not aware of the information, and had asked its technical team to double-check the facility, which remains under construction. It’s one of six stadiums that missed a Dec. 31 completion deadline.

“To our knowledge, including recent inspection reports from our technical stadium experts, only insulation material, piping, electrical cabling, pathways and switchboards etc. were damaged as a result of the fire,” FIFA said. “These installations and materials were being replaced along with other components in the affected areas.”

Blatter Criticism

FIFA President Sepp Blatter in January criticized Brazil for its tardiness in getting into shape to host the World Cup after it was awarded hosting rights in 2007.

“Brazil has just realized what it means to organize a World Cup,” Blatter told Swiss newspaper 24 Heures. “They started a lot too late. It is the country which is the furthest behind since I’ve been at FIFA and, moreover, it’s the only one that had so much time -- seven years -- to prepare itself.”

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