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‘It’s a race to get Brazil for WC’ Huge price hikes for hotels

SAO PAULO, March 14, (Agencies): Organizers of the World Cup are in a race to get ready, and the biggest challenge with three months to go is to install all the temporary structures needed to host matches in Brazil’s 12 host cities, FIFA’s secretary general said Thursday. Jerome Valcke told the cities will have “to race” to get stadiums, other facilities and infrastructure done in time for football’s premiere event. Brazilian organizers had promised to finish all stadiums by the end of last year but only six were ready. Three still aren’t finished, including the one in Sao Paulo that is to host the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12. “It’s not just FIFA being in a race,” Valcke said. “It’s the local organizing committee, the government and the host cities which have still to run and to race.” Temporary structures still need to be installed outside stadiums for the media, sponsors and technical teams. “The biggest challenge is to make sure that all what we call these temporary facilities can be in place,” Valcke said.

He cited delays in the southern city of Porto Alegre as an example of the potential problems. “Outside of the stadium of Porto Alegre there is no pavement. I mean, we cannot put in place all the TV compound, all the hospitality compound, all these different zones without any pavement,” Valcke said. He said that work can take two or three months. Fans heading to Rio for the World Cup will have to pay at least double the going rate for hotel accommodation despite government attempts to limit price-gouging during the tournament, a study found Thursday. Globo’s G1 news portal cited a study by the TripAdvisor travel website that rates in the swish Copacabana beachside district had been hiked by up to 229 percent. The study says average hotel accommodation prices in the district will hit a wallet-busting 1543.99 reais ($650) per night on match days during the June 12 to July 13 competition.

For Rio as a whole the nightly average will be 1,077 reais for rises topping 100 percent, making rooms even more expensive than Times Square in New York, according to estimates. Rio will host seven matches — including the final. “This is not good for the city, as it underpins the idea that tourists are being exploited,” G1 quoted Alfredo Lopes, chairman of the Rio Hoteliers Association, as saying. “We recommend that hotels indicate on their sites the rack rate they used on December 31 and during Carnival (official peak periods) and also for the World Cup, added Lopes. In January, government-backed consumer groups reached a deal with Brazilian hoteliers that prices should not exceed New Year and carnival tariffs, though that would only mean prices not rising above around $1000 a night. The TripAdvisor study also showed up huge price variations at Salvador de Bahia in Brazil’s northeast of up to 212 percent above normal rates on match days while mark-ups for Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza also topped 100 percent.

The Corinthians Arena at Sao Paulo, set to host the opening World Cup match on June 12 but as yet unfinished, will host its first training session Saturday, owners Corinthians said Thursday. “Between 9 a.m. (1200 GMT) and 11 a.m. this Saturday the players and the technical team will not only get to know the new stadium but also have a training session there,” the club said on their website. “As construction of the Corinthians Arena is just finishing, training will not be open to the fans on security grounds,” the club added.

Brazil’s Minister for Sport Aldo Rebelo on Thursday criticized anti-World Cup demonstrators, insisting they would not disrupt the tournament starting June 12. Brazil has witnessed months of protests against the estimated $11 billion price-tag for the tournament, with demonstrators saying the money would have better spent on improving poor public services. Noting protesters often chant “there will be no Cup,” Rebelo told foreign correspondents in Brasilia that everyone should get behind the five-time champions’ first hosting of the event in 64 years.

“I do not believe the campaigns will have an effect (of derailing the organization) or that there will be large demonstrations against the Cup,” Rebelo insisted. “The big demonstration will be one of celebration of the Cup,” he forecast, criticizing “sections of the media, who think they can offer space (to cover) this kind of ill will,” an allusion to the protest marches. Recent protests have been small but some have turned violent with anarchist groups known as Black Bloc clashing with police. Rebelo said he believed most people would back the tournament.

The World Cup may continue to attract public protests in Brazil, but Valcke insisted Thursday that football’s governing body does not have its hand in the host nation’s pocket. “FIFA is not using any public money; FIFA is not using any money from Brazil,” Valcke insisted. Brazil has seen months of protests against the cost of tournament with many citizens believing the estimated $11 billion spend has come at the expense of urgent investment in poor public services. FIFA has itself been a regular target for protesters who believe the organization hopes to make a fast buck from the extravaganza. But in a video on FIFA’s website Valcke insisted the game’s world body was contributing major investment by injecting some $800 million into the staging costs. “There will be a legacy, as was the case in Germany in 2006, for the country,” he added. “The country ... will add intrastructure and the potential to welcome a lot more tourists.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff personally received Cruzeiro star Tinga as well as a referee after both were subjected to racist chants at recent games. Rousseff has spoken out against racism in the game as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup and received Tinga at the presidential palace along with referee Marcio Chagas da Silva.

Keeper Sergio Romero will be Argentina’s first-choice goalkeeper at the World Cup in Brazil in June despite spending most of his time at Monaco on the bench, national coach Alejandro Sabella said on Thursday. The former winners are likely to have one of the strongest attacks at the finals but their defence has come under scrutiny with Romero being criticised for not always commanding his penalty area. “Romero had a good match and I consider him an excellent goalkeeper who unfortunately is not getting continuity at his club,” said Sabella of the keeper’s performance in last week’s 0-0 draw with Romania in a friendly in Bucharest. “Apart from the odd injury he has always been in my team ... the position (at the World Cup) is his,” the coach told the Radio La Red Argentine station.

Costa Rica defender Bryan Oviedo could still feature at the World Cup despite suffering a broken leg six weeks ago, Everton manager Roberto Martinez said. Oviedo fractured his tibia and fibula in an FA Cup tie against Stevenage in January, apparently ruling him out of the tournament in Brazil but Martinez said his recovery was ahead of schedule. “Bryan is well ahead in his recovery time,” Martinez told a news conference. “We have sent him back to Costa Rica because we are working with the national team who want to assess him.” “He saw an independent specialist in London before he went away and the specialist feels he can make the World Cup. That would be an incredible statement given he suffered the injury six weeks ago at Stevenage.”

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