The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Valcke arrives in Brazil for World Cup expecting 'busy days ahead' to get country ready
SAO PAULO - FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke arrived in Brazil on Monday to oversee the final preparations for the World Cup, saying he expects "busy days ahead" to make sure everything is ready in time.
The FIFA official in charge of the tournament arrived a day after Brazil held the last two test events at its delayed stadiums, including at the Sao Paulo venue that will host the opener in a few weeks.
Valcke said he will visit all 12 host cities again "to see that the finishing touches" are completed. He said FIFA's operational teams have "begun fanning out to the venues" for the final installations.
In his latest column on FIFA.com, the secretary general also criticized headlines "screaming that Brazilians don't want the World Cup," saying he is sure that there is widespread support for the tournament in Brazil.
Brazil had seven years to get ready for the World Cup but work remains incomplete ahead of the June 12 opener between Brazil and Croatia.
"We have busy days ahead of us with still a lot to be done," Valcke said, calling for a collective effort by FIFA, the local World Cup organizing committee and the local governments.
"I am here to see that the finishing touches for the FIFA World Cup operation are completed in time for kickoff," he said. "We will be focusing primarily on ensuring that all is in place for the 32 teams, the approximate 3 million fans watching the matches live in the 12 arenas and the billions watching the event on TV."
Valcke began his tour of host cities in Sao Paulo, where the Itaquerao stadium held its first — and only — official test event on Sunday. Local organizers acknowledged there were some problems but expressed satisfaction with the overall results.
Valcke said on Twitter that the Itaquerao "still needs 100 per cent from everybody to guarantee necessary structures are in place" for the opener.
"A test event does not compare to the scale, needs (and) global attention of the opening match of the World Cup," he said.
Valcke was in Brazil last month to visit the Itaquerao and said there was "not a minute" to waste to get the stadium ready. Since then, prosecutors threatened to halt construction at the venue because of health and safety irregularities, and constructors admitted that part of the roof will not be fully finished for the opener.
The Itaquerao is one of the stadiums not tested with a full crowd in attendance because of delays. The same happened at the Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiaba and the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba.
The Arena Pantanal also held its final test on Sunday.
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