SAO PAULO – Brazil risks missing the deadline for the delivery of its World Cup stadiums because of a court battle over the supplier of seats for Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.
FIFA wants all 12 stadiums completed by December, but Arena Pantanal may not be ready because of the legal dispute involving two companies.
One of the companies has asked a judge to void the bidding process that awarded its rival the right to provide the seats, which are already being installed. If the judge accepts the request, work at the 44,000-seat stadium in the wetlands may have to be halted with less than two months left before the FIFA deadline.
The purchase of the seats has been problematic since the beginning. The initial bidding process was suspended after prosecutors said the seats were overpriced, and a second process was suspended because of claims of irregularities with one of the companies.
Looking for a quick solution, local authorities recently reached a deal with the company Kango Brasil, which agreed to reduce its prices from its initial bid. Prosecutors said the deal wasn't ideal, but was needed "to avoid possible losses if the construction is not delivered within the timetable established by FIFA."
The company Desk, which wants to void the bidding process, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the new deal still presents a more costly option to the state, and that the lack of time was just an excuse.
"There is still time," said Marcelo Silva, a lawyer working for Desk, which has already supplied seats to other World Cup stadiums. "We can still install the seats ourselves if a decision is reached by next week or so."
Local World Cup organizers want the new seats delivered by Dec. 20. According to the original timetable, the installation was supposed to start in October.
The second bidding process was suspended in October because local organizers said they needed to look into allegations made by Kango that Desk was not in good standing, a claim that Desk said it later showed through documents was inaccurate. Organizers refused to share their findings on the allegations, saying the government had the right to void the second bidding process regardless of the investigation because Kango lowered its prices.
Silva said he expects a court decision as early as Friday, although he admits appeals are possible and it could take several more weeks for the case to be settled through Brazil's slow legal system.
The local World Cup organizing committee said it sees the issue as "resolved" and was satisfied with the original contractor's "plan to accelerate the installation" of the seats.
"The reports we receive do not lead us to believe that we will have any significant delays," the committee said in a statement. "Therefore, the deadline continues to be 31 December 2013."
The Mato Grosso state government admitted for the first time in October that the stadium's delivery could happen about two weeks after the FIFA deadline.
Brazil delivered only two of the six Confederations Cup venues in time, and FIFA said it would not accept the same types of delays for soccer's showcase event. FIFA ideally wants three test events in each of the venues before the World Cup.
Despite saying it will not accept delays in the remaining six World Cup stadiums under construction, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has said there is no Plan B regarding the venues and none will be replaced or excluded. He said changes can't be made now because tickets have already been sold.
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