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Pele fears Brazil embarrassment over World Cup delays

By Tatiana Ramil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Pele says Brazil risks embarrassment if preparations to host the 2014 World Cup do not get up to speed soon.

Brazil's greatest footballer said he was most concerned about delays in building or improving stadiums and modernizing the country's "frightening" airport system.

"You know of the fight we had to get the (2016) Olympics and the World Cup, traveling around the world seeking votes and now a moment has come that is worrying everyone," Pele told a news conference on Friday.

"Brazil is running a great risk of embarrassing us in how it runs the World Cup, principally in communications. The airports are frightening and not just for Brazilians."

Most of the works for the World Cup are behind schedule and some of the stadiums have not even begun to be built as in the case of first division club Corinthians, chosen by Sao Paulo city as its match venue.

"Brazil has the obligation to stage a good World Cup, a good administration, and sadly it's already behind and has this controversy of Sao Paulo," the 70-year-old Pele said.

"The Paulista championship is the core of Brazilian football, it's what should already be settled and it still isn't settled."

Sao Paulo will stage the tournament's opening match, according to the organizing committee, but it is unclear how Corinthians will enlarge their stadium to the 60,000-capacity required by FIFA. Work is supposed to start next month.

Apart from the stadiums, infrastructure improvements are also required, especially to the inadequate airports.

(Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; editing by Martyn Herman; to query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)