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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Football

Curitiba's honour saved, earns last-minute Fifa reprieve
AFP
Florianopolis, February 20, 2014
First Published: 12:08 IST(20/2/2014)
Last Updated: 12:17 IST(20/2/2014)
With the clock ticking away to the Fifa World Cup, construction workers work overtime to ensure there is no more embarrassment for Brazil. (Reuters Photo)

Curitiba won a last-minute reprieve from Fifa on Tuesday, retaining its status as a World Cup finals venue despite construction work delays, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said.

Fifa judged that work on the stadium, which will host four games in the finals that start in Brazil in June have made enough progress to warrant being retained. It had previously missed a series of deadlines - Fifa dropped an initial deadline of December 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.

Read: Accidents, controversies continue to plague Brazil World Cup run up

Done enough
On Tuesday, he confirmed the stadium had done enough to stay on board, heading off a potential legal minefield of challenges from the city, which had faced claims from hotels losing weeks of fan business.

"Yes, Curitiba will remain as one of the 12 host cities," said Valcke, who confirmed news to that effect posted on his website just minutes before he spoke.

"That shows I'm not really responsible for the Twitter account," he joked.

Fifa assessor Charles Botta had earlier completed the world body's latest appraisal of the Arena da Baixada site which has been beset by delays that had increasingly caused concern after costs rose almost threefold from an initial $60 million.

The city was one of six which saw action when the continent-sized nation first hosted the tournament back in 1950.

Just prior to Valcke's announcement, Curitiba prefect Gustavo Fruet had already let slip on Twitter that the venue would not be dropped.

"Total confidence! The meeting with the Fifa team has finished and it is retaining the stadium," Fruet tweeted. If the axe had fallen on Curitiba, it would have been a humiliating blow to the football-mad nation, which has also been trumpeting its economic progress over the past few years.


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