By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following FIFA’s visit to Brazil last week, general secretary Jérôme Valcke has stated that host cities Brasília and Rio de Janeiro are of primary concern to world football’s governing body. The two arenas are set to host the opening match and final respectively, but neither are yet complete.
Both must be delivered by the end of April, with FIFA admitting there is no back-up plan should either arena fail to meet that deadline prior to the 2013 Confederations Cup, to be held from June 15th-30th.
Strong rain in the Cidade Maravilhosa last week rendered Valcke’s visit virtually futile. An heavy downpour that flooded city streets left the Maracanã Stadium resembling a swimming pool and all Valcke could do was circle overhead in a helicopter.
Valcke held a meeting with CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) president José Maria Marín, Brazilian Minister for Sport Aldo Rebelo and representatives of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC). The aim of the meeting was to discuss possible solutions to the problems in the two host cities.
FIFA sources have indicated that despite both stadiums being officially declared ninety percent ready, there is still a mountain of work to complete in the next six weeks. “There is no plan B. Of course we are worried, because of what we have seen.[…] Many items are still to be decided. The pitch, the roof, the terraces and the press room,” said Valcke.
Witnesses to last week’s meeting told Brazilian press the atmosphere was strained as the delays to the Maracanã and Mané Garrincha attempted to be explained. The continuous line of hindrances puts into serious doubt test games that must be carried out.
“In a perfect world three test games should be played before any official matches take place. The first with ten percent capacity, then one with thirty percent and a final game with eighty percent. That’s the ideal so we can test the efficiency of the stadium,” Valcke said.
In stadiums already finished, the Castelão and Mineirão, minor adjustments are being made in the wake of test matches being played. This, according to the FIFA general secretary, highlights the importance of trial runs to avoid mishaps during major matches.
In the light of new delays Valcke has announced the Maracanã must be delivered on April 27th, just 45 days from today (Wednesday, March 15th) and a tall order for the city to serve. It is the third time the deadline has had to be pushed back.
Should the stadium be delivered on time the first test should be carried out on May 25th, a week before Brazil are due to meet England in a friendly. The state government declined to make an official comment, choosing only to guarantee that the Maracanã will be ready for the Confederations Cup.
October 30th, 2007 – FIFA announce Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup
August 12th, 2010 – Delta, Andrade Gutierrez and Odebrecht awarded the contract to reform the Maracanã
August 25th, 2010 – Seats begin to be removed from the lower ring whilst matches continue to be played
September 8th, 2010 – Almost three years after FIFA announced Brazil as 2014 World Cup hosts, the Maracanã closes for reformation works
August 21st, 2011 – Workers go on strike
September 2nd, 2011 – For the second time in less than fifteen days, workers lay down their tools
December 31st, 2012 – Original deadline missed
February 28th, 2013 – Second deadline missed
April 27th, 2013 – Third deadline set