Soccer: World Cup stadiums 'progressing well'

Less than two years before the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, half of the 12 host stadiums are at least 50 per cent completed, the sports ministry said on Tuesday.

Work on Rio's iconic Maracana stadium, which will host the World Cup final, is 62 per cent completed, according to a progress review posted on the government's official World Cup page.

Venues in Brasilia and the northeastern city of Salvador are more than 70 per cent completed.

But the arena in the northeast city of Natal is only 30 per cent done and work on the stadium in the southern city of Porto Alegre is just 33 per cent completed.

Work on the venues in the northern city of Manaus, the southern cities of Curitiba and Sao Paulo, and in Cuiaba, capital of the central-western state of Mato Grosso is nearly halfway done, the progress review said.

Last week, visiting FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said preparations for the World Cup - renovation or construction of stadiums, as well as infrastructure projects - were progressing well.

"No stadium is behind schedule. All the projects are proceeding well and we have reached cruise speed," Valcke told a press conference in Rio after inspecting host arenas in Manaus and Cuiaba.

"Things are working better. More is being accomplished. Things are speeding up," he said with former Brazilian football great Ronaldo, a member of the World Cup Organizing Committee, at his side.

His comments, made on his fourth visit to Brazil to assess progress, contrasted with his comments in March when he suggested World Cup organizers needed a "kick up the backside" to hasten lagging preparations.

He subsequently apologized for his comments, as did FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

But experts believe the country still has major challenges to overcome, notably with respect to transport and housing.

On Tuesday, the sports ministry cited good progress on the arena in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, which is 87 per cent completed, and in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte, which is 78 per cent done.

Both stadiums will host both matches of next June's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, the first in Brazil since 1950.

In Brasilia, the arena where the opening game of the Confederations Cup and seven World Cup games will be staged is 72 per cent completed while stadiums in the northeastern cities of Salvador and Recife are 70 per cent and 51.6 per cent done, respectively.

FIFA will meanwhile announce in early November whether the arenas in Recife and Salvador will host Confederations Cup matches next year, along with Rio, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza.

- AFP

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