Sports

LATE REPRIEVE

Curitiba, one of 12 Brazilian cities to host the World Cup Finals in June, won a last-minute reprieve from Fifa this morning (Singapore time), retaining its status despite construction delays.

Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke confirmed that work on Curitiba's Arena da Baixada Stadium, which will host four games, have made enough progress to warrant being retained.

But Valcke warned: "It is essential that the works are maintained at the required levels and that a collective effort by all stakeholders involved in Curitiba continues.

"It is a race against a very tight timeline and will require regular monitoring. But we are counting on the commitment made by Atletico Paranaense, the city and the state of Curitiba."

Contractors have brought in hundreds of extra workers and the stadium is set for a mid-May finish.

Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Parana, had previously missed a series of deadlines - Fifa dropped an initial deadline of Dec 31 for all 12 venues after six failed to meet the date.

A double fatality at Sao Paulo, which will stage the opening game, put that venue's pre-event tests back until mid-April.

In addition, there have been three construction deaths at Manaus in the Amazon region and one at Brasilia.

But it has been the Curitiba delays which have posed Fifa a severe headache to the extent Valcke threatened to scrap it from the list altogether.

DELAYS

Fifa assessor Charles Botta had earlier completed the latest appraisal of the site, which has been beset by delays that had increasingly caused concern after costs rose almost threefold from an initial US$60 million ($76m).

Work on Curitiba, one of six venues which saw action when Brazil first hosted the World Cup in 1950, has been even slower than on the other 11 venues, which two months 
ago won an extended deadline from Fifa.

The highest profile match at the stadium, now 91 per cent complete, according to its owner Atletico Paranaense, will be Australia versus defending champions Spain on June 23.

Many Brazilians believe the cost of hosting the tournament has come at the expense of public services and there have been protests which came to a head at last year's World Cup Finals dress rehearsal - the Confederations Cup.

Some protesters have marched under the slogan "There Will Be No Cup" - and, in Curitiba, that wish came close to being granted. While construction work is slow, protesters' response is fast - another march has been scheduled for 
today. - AFP.

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