Curitiba retains World Cup host status

FIFA confirms Curitiba as one of Brazil's 12 World Cup host cities.

FIFA confirms Curitiba as one of Brazil's 12 World Cup host cities.

CURITIBA, Brazil - Brazil's southern city Curitiba has retained its status as a World Cup host city, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said Tuesday.

The news was confirmed on Valcke's personal Twitter account ahead of appearing before members of the press at a FIFA Workshop in Brazil's southern resort city of Florianopolis.

"Curitiba confirmed as #WorldCup venue, based on financial guarantees, the commitment by all stakeholders & progress made."

"It's a race against a very tight timeline. The collective effort of all shareholders involved in Curitiba must continue at the fastest pace," the message on Valcke's Twitter account said.

Even before the official FIFA announcement came, Curitiba mayor Gustavo Fruet confirmed to local media that the city would remain a World Cup host city, citing an earlier telephone conversation with Valcke.

Valcke said Curitiba understood the pressure it was facing, but had convinced FIFA that it could finish the job.

Curitiba is due to host four first-round matches on June 16-June 26.

- Dates for delivery

Valcke told reporters on Tuesday that the Curitiba stadium, known as the Arena da Baixada, would be handed over to FIFA in May. The decision to keep Curitiba on the list of host cities was made after the association’s Charles Botta visited the stadium and the city provided financial guarantees.

Curitiba’s newly-renovated 41,500-seat stadium has been FIFA's biggest concern in the run-up to the tournament as it is reportedly only 90 percent ready.

Last week some Brazilian media outlets, including the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, said FIFA had started working on contingency plans to move games from Curitiba to nearby stadiums in Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Belo Horizonte. This was later denied by FIFA and local officials.

Most Brazilian commentators said it would have been unthinkable to many for Curitiba to have lost its World Cup venue status, both for a local government that in an election year and for FIFA to admit that it had lost control of one of its tournament's host cities.

-Beset by funding delays

Local officials said the arena is behind schedule due to severe funding delays.

After the R$234 million ($97.5 million) of private funding ran out, an extra R$90 million of public money was pledged to modernize the stadium. Local authorities recently released another R$39 million for additional workers.

Curitiba's stadium is the cheapest of the twelve World Cup stadium projects. Both private and public sources came up against severe delays in securing and receiving funding from the country's National Development Fund Bank, the BNDES.

However, concerns over safety have also emerged after work on the stadium was temporarily halted in October 2013 after a slew of reported safety breaches.

- Public reaction to the news

Residents of Curitiba, among them 24-year-old student Ricardo Becker, are relieved to hear the news.

"I'm thrilled. It would have been a real shame if it didn't happen, not to mention a testament to the city's incompetence and lack of accountability. Even so, I do resent how overpriced the work on the stadium has been and how public money has gone missing," he told the Anadolu Agency.

Communication coordinator Camila Tremea, 29, said she was also happy given the amount of time and money that has already been invested by the city into the project: "With just a few months to go before the World Cup, you couldn't have taken it away from the city. The city's businesses have done too many preparations for this."

Leonardo Bittencourt, a 35-year-old English teacher from Curitiba, told the AA he thought the World Cup would be a "good thing" for both Curitiba as it should improve its international image, despite the "obscene amounts of money apparently wasted and misappropriated," he added.

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