Stadium construction on schedule in Brazil: FIFA chief

By Tales Azzoni ,AP

SAO PAULO — FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said Thursday he is satisfied with stadium construction in Brazil ahead of next year’s Confederation Cup and the 2014 World Cup.

After a three-day trip to inspect the host cities and discuss the country’s preparations with local officials and organizers, Valcke said work in Brazil is on schedule.

“Our greatest source of satisfaction is that we are getting closer and closer,” Valcke said after a board meeting of the local organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro. “We’ve just completed another satisfactory visit, this time to Cuiaba and Manaus, and we are convinced that the work is right on track.”

Valcke visited the jungle city of Manaus on Tuesday and the western city of Cuiaba on Wednesday.

The secretary-general noted there was reason for some concern in Recife, which has to be ready to host Confederations Cup matches in 2013, but he said FIFA will continue to closely monitor construction work in the northeastern city, which has until November to show that it can pull it off.

Salvador also has the November deadline to show it will be ready for the Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament which will also be played in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Recife and Fortaleza.

It was the third inspection visit by Valcke, who was in Recife, Natal and Brasilia in June, and in Salvador and Fortaleza in January. He will visit all 12 host cities by the end of the year.

In October, Valcke is expected to visit the southern city of Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final of the Confederations Cup and of the World Cup at the Maracana Stadium. Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba will be next. Sao Paulo will host the World Cup opener and the Confederations Cup draw in December.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo and sports ministry official Luis Fernandes accompanied Valcke during this week’s tour.

“With each meeting we’re working more and more closely in our preparations for the FIFA World Cup, which is absolutely essential to the success of both the World Cup itself and the FIFA Confederations Cup,” Fernandes said.

FIFA announced after Thursday’s board meeting that more than 95,000 people have applied to be volunteers at the 2014 World Cup, surpassing the numbers from Germany and South Africa in just more than a week.

About 15,000 volunteers will be selected to work in the tournament in Brazil, while about 7,000 will be picked for next year’s Confederations Cup. Nearly 50,000 people applied to be volunteers in 2006 and 70,000 in 2010, soccer’s governing body said.

“FIFA is grateful for that and would like to stress once again that the exceptional atmosphere that surrounds the FIFA World Cup is mainly down to the volunteers,” Valcke said.

Local World Cup organizing committee president Jose Maria Marin said: “I’m delighted to see the people of Brazil responding so well.”