"We cannot organize a match without a stadium. This has reached a critical… (Nelson Antoine / Associated…)
FIFA's anger over the lagging pace of construction ahead of this summer's World Cup in Brazil could cost the southern city of Curitiba its four group-play matches, an official said Tuesday.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA's secretary general, said his group is not convinced that the Arena de Baixada will be ready by the time the tournament opens June 12.
"We cannot organize a match without a stadium. This has reached a critical point," he told reporters after making a visit to the stadium, which is reportedly 90% complete. "Let us be frank and direct about it. As you must know the present situation at the stadium is not to our liking. Not only is it very behind in its construction but it has failed to meet any of the deadlines set by FIFA."
All 12 World Cup venues were supposed to be ready by Jan. 1, but FIFA was forced to relax that deadline after a slew of delays last month, including fatal construction accidents at stadiums in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Manaus. In Curitiba, capital of the state of Parana, workers walked off the site in December in a protest over back pay.
"A lot of people want to come here, the World Cup holders have to play here," Valcke said of Curitiba, which is scheduled to play host to defending champion Spain in group play. "We hope, therefore. that the conversations we have had with the state government and the Curitiba city council will produce the desired results, which will not see the city excluded from the Cup."
Stadium construction is not the only issue plaguing World Cup organizers. The state of Brazil's sagging transportation infrastructure has also been a concern, and on Tuesday Brazil's aviation authority said the airport authorities in the northern city of Fortaleza have decided to delay major renovations until after the World Cup, opting for an improvised tent terminal to handle the anticipated crush of visitors.
Fortaleza is scheduled to hold four games, including a group play match between Brazil and Mexico.