Curitiba is in jeopardy of being dropped as host city for the World Cup in Brazil. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has warned it has "reached a critical point" after multiple missed stadium construction deadlines.
Valcke said on Tuesday that if the stadium construction in Curitiba fails to make significant progress, it could be skipped over for world football's biggest tournament this year.
"We cannot organize a match without a stadium, this has reached a critical point," he said after visiting the construction site.
The 43,000 capacity Arena de Baixada is estimated to be around 90 percent completed, but it has been plagued with setbacks. In August, plans for a retractable roof were scrapped due to time constraints. Judicial authorities stopped construction due to safety concerns in October, and two months later work was temporarily halted when personnel walked off the job in protest of unpaid wages.
Progress 'not to our liking'
"It is a delicate question. But let us be frank and direct about it," said Valcke, who has not shied away from making strong statements about Brazil's preparation for the tournament. "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," he added. "It is not that we want the stadium to be ready by February 18, but simply that we want to see progress made [by the time of the next FIFA evaluation visit]."
Curitiba is slated to host four group stage matches during the June 12 to July 13tournament, including an encounter between Australia and defending champions Spain.
"A lot of people want to come here, the World Cup holders have to play here," said Valcke. "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."
Despite his harsh warning, however, Valcke expressed optimism that the authorities would finish the Curitiba venue in time.
"For the time being, I trust that the decisions that have been made today will give us Curitiba as one of the host cities," he said. "It will be a difficult birth, but at the end we will have a baby."
Preparation beset by problems
All 12 of Brazil's World Cup stadiums have suffered problems in the lead-up to the tournament. Three different construction sites – Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Manaus – have had fatal accidents. The venues were supposed to meet a December 31 deadline of completion set by FIFA, but the body had to drop the date after repeated delays.
In addition to questions over the stadiums, there is widespread concern about the capabilities of the enormous country's transportation infrastructure. At least five of the host cities will not complete promised upgrades to bus lanes, tram systems or metro lines.
Air travel is likely to be the only realistic method of transport between many of the cities, but a number of Brazil's airports require major overhauls that will not be completed prior to the tournament. Earlier on Tuesday, the airport in northeastern host city Fortaleza announced it was postponing major renovations until after the World Cup and will instead operate an improvised tent terminal.
dr/lw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)