FIFA Threatens to Abandon World Cup Venue Over Building Delays

Backers of one of the 12 stadiums being prepared for soccer’s World Cup have until Feb. 18 to come up with a plan to complete construction or face being excluded from soccer’s showpiece.

The top World Cup official at governing body FIFA yesterday said the Arena da Baixada could be removed from the tournament schedule unless a detailed plan to meet construction deadlines is in place by the time coaches from 32 competing nations arrive for a workshop next month. Progress at the stadium in Brazil’s southern state of Parana has been the slowest among the six arenas still under construction.

“Coaches will go to the city where they will play and it is essential to know what will happen,” said FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke. “The organizing committee, FIFA and the city of Curitiba will have to decide if the city is ready to host the World Cup.”

The buildup to the tournament has been beset by cost overruns and delays to key infrastructure projects, including the majority of the 12 stadiums that will host the games. Six stadiums were finished last year, and the remaining ones all missed a Dec. 31, 2013, deadline imposed by FIFA.

“If the works remain at the present rhythm the stadium will not be ready” to meet the requirements needed for a World Cup stadium, deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes told reporters today in Curitiba, a city of 1.76 million, before outlining a series of emergency measures.

Change Itinerary

World Cup organizers have demanded the creation of a new management committee to oversee the project and an increase in the speed of work by hiring more laborers. Consultants from Price Waterhouse Coopers have been hired to ensure loans from Brazil’s development bank arrive on time.

Valcke on a tour of stadiums was forced to change his itinerary after word emerged about the problems at the Arena da Baixada. He had planned to visit the jungle city of Manaus.

The Curitiba stadium, a joint venture between soccer team Atletico Paranaense and local government, has been complicated by financial disputes and confusion over its design. The delays pushed costs to renovate the arena up 44 percent to 265 million reais ($112 million). As recently as last month stadium developers said they’d be finished by February even though seats had yet to be fitted and the area where the pitch was to be laid was covered with mounds of gravel. The building will hold 41,456 fans.

“We cannot organize a match without a stadium,” said Valcke. “This has reached a critical point.”

It’s unclear what would happen should the stadium be taken off the list of World Cup venues. Tickets for games there have already been sold.

The stadium is scheduled to host four games, starting with a matchup between Iran and Nigeria on June 16.

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