The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Brazil holds final stadium tests for World Cup, including at unfinished venue hosting opener
SAO PAULO - Brazilian organizers admitted there were problems but said they were mostly satisfied with the results of the final two stadium tests for the World Cup on Sunday, including at the troubled venue that will host the tournament opener in a few weeks.
Brazilian league matches were played to inaugurate the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo and the Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiaba.
Organizers said there were problems at both venues, including a leaking roof at the Itaquerao and a pitch invasion at the Arena Pantanal. But no major setbacks were reported, and getting through the test events was important to help alleviate at least some of the concerns about the country's readiness for soccer's showcase event.
"We are very satisfied," local World Cup organizing committee CEO Ricardo Trade said after the match in Sao Paulo. "There are wonderful things, but there are some adjustments to make, there are still some things to finish. It was fundamental that we staged this event."
The Itaquerao and the Arena Pantanal were among the most delayed stadiums ahead of the June 12 opener, along with the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba. The final test at the Arena da Baixada was held last week.
Now all 12 World Cup stadiums have held test events. None of the test matches were held at full capacity, however, as there is still a lot of work left to be done at the venues, including the installation of seats.
Some of the problems at the Itaquerao were related to its unfinished roof. It rained heavily late in the first half and there was hail falling at halftime, forcing some of the fans to scramble for cover because not all seats were protected.
The construction company in charge of the venue confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that glass covers that had to be installed in part of the roof will not be ready until after the World Cup, so the same problem could happen during the tournament next month.
Local organizers said it was never a requirement to have all seats covered at World Cup stadiums, but if the glass covers were already in place, a lot more people would have been protected from the rain.
Organizers also admitted that there were connection problems for fans trying to use their cellphones inside the Itaquerao. More of the same is expected during the World Cup as the government has already warned that communications in some of the venues, including in Sao Paulo, will be less than perfect during the tournament.
The Itaquerao will host nearly 70,000 fans and guests during the high-profile opening match between Brazil and Croatia, but only 40,000 people were allowed in for Sunday's match between stadium-owner Corinthians and Figueirense.
Figueirense, last in the Brazilian league, stunned the home crowd with a 1-0 victory. The goal was scored by midfielder Giovanni Augusto three minutes into the second half.
In the wetlands city of Cuiaba, the Arena Pantanal was home to Atletico Mineiro's 2-1 win over Santos in its final test on Sunday. The venue already hosted an official match in April, but only half of the seats had been installed at the time.
Near the end of the match, a fan got past security and entered the field to complain about Santos' performance. Although he was quickly removed, the invasion showed that there some adjustments to make in that area.
FIFA usually wants three test events in stadiums hosting World Cup games, but it had to accept less than that in Brazil because of the country's chronic preparation delays. Beginning this week, soccer's governing body will start taking over the venues to work on its own preparations.
FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee were closely monitoring the test matches on Sunday, analyzing everything from fan's access to the stadiums to pitch condition to security.
It was clear there was a lot of work left outside the venues too, especially on infrastructure projects aimed at improving nearby roads. In most World Cup stadiums, the installation of temporary structures needed to accommodate sponsors, media and technical teams are likely to continue until just days before the tournament begins.
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