Brazil stadiums 'still' behind
Rio de Janeiro - FIFA's secretary general Jerome Valcke has again blasted Brazil for being behind schedule in its stadium preparations for the 2014 Soccer World Cup.
Valcke said on Thursday that "there is not a single stadium ready today." He added that beer must be allowed at matches, despite Brazilian law prohibiting beer sales at games.
Valcke spoke alongside retired Brazil great Ronaldo and Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo following visits to two of the host cities, Fortaleza and Salvador.
Ronaldo, the newest member of the World Cup Local Organizing Committee, said he was confident the stadiums would be ready on time.
Brazil's World Cup will be played in 12 far-flung venues, including a 44 000-seat stadium being built in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus.
All 12 cities will host at least four matches, triggering concerns about travel in the massive nation, whose ailing airport infrastructure has repeatedly been highlighted by FIFA as needing an upgrade.
FIFA officials have repeatedly said preparations are behind schedule, and Valcke has already urged Brazilian lawmakers to pick up the pace.
On Thursday, Valcke also pressed the Brazilian Congress for approval of a pending package of laws regulating the World Cup.
Brazil prohibited alcohol sales inside stadiums in 2003 in a bid to cut down on violence, but the Budweiser beer company is a major World Cup sponsor and FIFA is urging lawmakers to allow beer sales in the stadiums during the World Cup.
"We're not talking about alcohol, we're talking about beer," Valcke said.
Other disputes between FIFA and the Brazilian government include liability for security and safety problems, and the sale of discounted tickets to students and the elderly as guaranteed by Brazilian law.
Valcke said FIFA and Brazil need to resolve these long-standing differences and get on with essential infrastructure preparations.
Rebelo said the disagreements should be settled once Brazil's Congress votes on the pending World Cup bill. The vote is expected to take place by March.
Local Organizing Committee president Ricardo Teixeira did not attend the press conference, although FIFA said in a press release that he had participated in the LOC's meeting.
Valcke said Teixeira could not attend the press conference due to previous commitments, and that Teixeira's absence was "his decision."
Teixeira is implicated in a corruption scandal involving millions of dollars in kickbacks from World Cup broadcast deals. FIFA postponed publication of documents in December that would name the soccer officials involved because, the soccer organization said, of legal action taken by one of the parties involved in the scheme.
The BBC has reported that Teixeira and former FIFA president Joao Havelange are among those involved.
FIFA estimates the 2014 World Cup will cost about $1.3 billion to stage, including the LOC's budget. The governing body gets most of its revenue from sponsorship deals and other income related to its marquee event, with its budget forecast for the four-year cycle of 2011-2014 expected to bring in about $3.8 billion, with profits of about $200 million.