Brazil holds final stadium tests for World Cup
SAO PAULO— Brazilian organizers held the final two stadium tests for the World Cup on Sunday, including at the troubled venue that will host the tournament opener in a few weeks.
Brazilian league matches were played to inaugurate the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo and the Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiaba.
The two stadiums were among those not finished on schedule ahead of the June 12 opener, along with the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba. The final test at the Arena da Baixada was held last week.
Now all 12 World Cup stadiums have held test events ahead of football’s showcase tournament. None of the test matches were held at full capacity, however, as there is still a lot of work left to be done at the venues, including the installation of seats.
Football’s governing body usually wants three test events in stadiums hosting World Cup games, but it had to accept less than that in Brazil because of the country’s chronic preparation delays. Beginning this week, FIFA will start taking over the venues to work on its own preparations.
None of the final six stadiums were finished by the end of last year as originally promised.
The Itaquerao will host nearly 70,000 fans and guests during the high-profile opening match between Brazil and Croatia, but only 40,000 people were allowed in for Sunday’s match between stadium-owner Corinthians and Figueirense.
Figueirense, last in the Brazilian league, stunned the home crowd with a 1-0 victory. The goal was scored by midfielder Giovanni Augusto three minutes into the second half.
FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee were closely monitoring the test match, analyzing everything from fan’s access to the stadium to pitch condition to security.
It rained heavily late in the first half and there was hail falling at halftime, forcing some of the fans to scramble for cover as part of the stadium’s roof is not finished. The construction company in charge of the venue said Friday that glass covers that had to be installed in part of the roof will not be ready until after the World Cup, so the same could happen during the tournament next month.
There was a lot of work left outside the venues too, especially on infrastructure projects aimed at improving nearby roads. In most World Cup venues, the installation of temporary structures needed to accommodate sponsors, media and technical teams are likely to continue until just days before the tournament begins.
The Itaquerao, which will also host a semifinal and other four matches in addition to the opener, was initially expected to cost $160 million, but the final amount spent was close to $540 million. Part of the venue’s financing came from tax breaks and government loans.
Earlier this year, a worker died while installing some of the 20,000 temporary seats that are needed for the opener, prompting officials to temporarily halt construction at the site. Late last year, two workers died after a crane collapsed while hoisting a huge roofing structure, causing a significant delay at the venue where construction began in 2011.
The Arena Pantanal was hosting the match between Santos and Atletico Mineiro in its final test on Sunday. The venue already hosted an official match in April, but only half of the seats had been installed at the time.