With World Cup a year away, Brazil vows to be ready
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil is a year from the World Cup, admitting to mistakes in its preparations but vowing to be ready in time.
After facing difficulties getting its stadiums ready for the Confederations Cup - the warm-up tournament that begins in Brasilia on Saturday - Brazil is promising that things will be different ahead of the 32-team World Cup.
FIFA said it won't accept it any other way, and Brazilian authorities and local organizers say delays that plagued construction work before the Confederations Cup won't be an issue next year, when the tournament opens with the hosts playing in Sao Paulo on June 12.
A clock displaying the countdown to the World Cup was unveiled Wednesday at Copacabana Beach, with FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, World Cup ambassador Pele and local organizers in attendance.
"This is another memorable milestone in our preparations for Brazil 2014,'' said local organizing committee president Jose Maria Marin. "It's a reminder that the big event is just round the corner. In 12 months' time we'll be staging a football festival involving teams from 32 countries and fans from the four corners of the globe.''
Brazil just barely got six stadiums prepared for the Confederations Cup. Only two were completed by the original deadline in December, and in some cases there was time for only one test event before the venues were to host official matches in the tournament for continental champions.
That was what happened in Brasilia and in Rio de Janeiro, home of the final at the renovated Maracana Stadium on June 30.
"I do believe we could have delivered them sooner to allow for the realization of more test events, which could have anticipated some of the problems that arose during those test events,'' Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said. "Apart from that, I believe that all requirements were executed in accordance with expectations and that we will have a Confederations Cup that will be held as expected.''
FIFA has made it clear that Brazil will have to do a better job for the World Cup, when the expectations will be much higher and the number of visitors will increase.
The Brazilians said FIFA should not worry about the delivery of the remaining six stadiums being built for the World Cup.
"This first delivery was actually the hardest deadline to meet,'' Rebelo said on a conference call this week. "The evolution of the construction work of these (World Cup) stadiums ... indicates that, yes, they can and will be delivered in December (2013). We have been in close contact with the responsible parties for these stadiums to make sure that those deadlines are fulfilled.''
The government said infrastructure projects not ready in time for the Confederations Cup will also be finalized by the World Cup.
"We have been monitoring transportation and urban mobility on a daily basis,'' Rebelo said. "These works will be delivered in time, together with the next six stadiums. Airport, security, telecommunications and urban mobility will be ready and compatible with the expectations held by the country and by the world.''
But not everybody is celebrating in Brazil as the World Cup approaches. There have been complaints because of the high costs of the stadiums and of the government's decision to suspend laws to abide by FIFA requirements.
And on Saturday, the day Brazil opens the Confederations Cup against Japan, Rio residents evicted because of World Cup and Olympic projects will stage what they call a "People's Cup,'' calling attention to what they say are human rights violations. Local organizers and government officials have said all evictions have happened according to law.
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