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SAO PAULO – The stadium that will host the World Cup opener in Sao Paulo just had goalposts installed. Organizers in the city of Cuiaba are still trying to find a supplier for the seats for their venue.
With less than three months to go before the December deadline established by FIFA for the delivery of the 12 World Cup stadiums, Brazil is working to have all venues ready in time. Local organizers say they'll meet it, but some recent setbacks have prompted concern.
Of the six stadiums yet to be delivered, five were less than 90 percent completed by September, according to the most recent government numbers. The other six venues were ready before this year's Confederations Cup — just barely.
"We are very confident with the timetable presented by the host cities," said Ricardo Trade, CEO of the local World Cup organizing committee. "We don't feel we are running against time to have the stadiums delivered. There are no major obstacles to overcome. Of course, there's always the possibility that something goes wrong, but as we get closer to the deadline, that possibility is diminishing."
Skepticism about Brazil's ability to deliver the stadiums intensified after organizers failed to keep their promise ahead of the Confederations Cup, when only two of the six venues were completed by the original FIFA deadline. Soccer's governing body made it clear that for the World Cup it will not accept the same types of delays that plagued stadium construction before the warm-up tournament.
"If we only delivered two (stadiums) in December last year, this was a lesson too, so we can make an effort to deliver them in December 2013," said Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the man in charge of the country's preparations for the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. "And we are counting on it."
New obstacles have prompted worries about Brazil's ability to meet the deadline.
At the venue in Curitiba, a labor judge ordered the suspension of construction this week after an inspection team deemed the site unsafe for workers. The Arena da Baixada was less than 80 percent ready a few weeks ago, the lowest rate among the venues still being built, and the work stoppage could become costly if it lasts longer.
Club Atletico Paranaense, in charge of the stadium, said it has already addressed the issues brought forward by the judge. But work won't start again until another inspection, which could happen as soon as Friday.
"The information I received from the president of Atletico Paranaense is that all measures were adopted to correct any irregularity and allow the construction work to resume," Rebelo said.
During FIFA's last inspection visit to the city this year, it was determined the stadium would be completed without the retractable roof from the original design because it would take too long to build.
Organizers also downplayed problems at the Cuiaba stadium, where local officials recently were forced to cancel the bidding process for the seats. Public prosecutors alleged the seats were overpriced, prompting the government to call for a new bidding process, which should happen in the coming days.
Local organizers said the new seats must be delivered by Dec. 20, just days before the FIFA deadline. According to the original timetable, the installation of the seats was supposed to be underway. The Arena Pantanal was 85 percent completed at the end of September.
"It will not affect the delivery of the stadium," Trade told The Associated Press. "We've been assured the seats will be installed in time. The seats are not a critical aspect of the construction work, as are the roof or the pitch, which remain on schedule."
Cuiaba is one of the cities that will receive an inspection visit by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke next week. Valcke will also stop by the southern city of Porto Alegre. It's trying to finalize the Beira-Rio Stadium, which was 82 percent ready in August, according to the government.
Work at the Arena das Dunas in northeastern Natal was the most advanced among the six stadiums yet to be delivered, with 90 percent of construction completed.
Sao Paulo's stadium was 87 percent completed last month, on track for the Jan. 5 delivery that was approved by FIFA. The sidelines were painted and the goalposts installed this week.
In the jungle city of Manaus, the field has just been laid with grass at Arena Amazonia, which was 83 percent completed in September.
"We don't expect to face many difficulties," Trade said. "We've been monitoring all the work, along with FIFA, and we are confident to say that all of the stadiums will be delivered on time."
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wade and AP writer Filipe de Almeida contributed from Rio de Janeiro.
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