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Argentina's Arsenal's Diego Braghieri (right), fights for the ball with Sebastian Jaime of Chile's Union Espanola during a Copa Libertadores soccer match in Buenos Aires
FIFA holds back 7 pct of ‘ticket’ Gov’t body confident about Brazil violence

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 25, (Agencies): Brazil’s failure to meet construction deadlines for World Cup stadiums means FIFA does not know how many tickets to make available for the tournament, which kicks off in less than two months, FIFA’s marketing director Thierry Weil said on Thursday. World soccer’s governing body had wanted the 12 venues to be ready by December last year, but only the six used in the Confederations Cup last June were ready by then. Of the remaining six, three are still not complete with the opening match set to take place on June 12. “We can’t say exactly how many tickets there will be because we don’t know the exact number of seats in the stadiums,” Weil said at a news conference in Rio. “We have held back 7 percent of the tickets until we really know how many tickets will be available.” Brazil has had seven years to prepare for the tournament but is still racing to finish stadiums, airports, roads and other vital infrastructure.

At least one airport will greet passengers in a tarpaulin terminal building and several cities have either cut back plans to build roads, bus lines and railways or shelved the original plans altogether. The biggest concern for FIFA is the stadiums and particularly the Arena Corinthians, which is scheduled to host the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12. The stadium was built to hold 48,000 people but some 20,000 temporary seats are being added for the tournament’s six games and they are still under construction. Stadiums in Curitiba and Cuiaba are also unfinished. Some 27,000 seats are still to be installed in Curitiba. Weil said he hoped to have a definitive figure by the middle of May and begin last-minute sales soon after.

“At some point in May more tickets will go on sale with the completion of the stadiums,” he said. “It’s just taking time.” Another fear for FIFA is that it will not have enough of a window to test the stadiums properly.
“We need to test everything, the communications, lights, cables, all the things that need to work and unfortunately we can’t do that in these stadiums,” he said. “We’d love to test these kind of things and then have time to react to any problems but we’ll have to accelerate the process.” FIFA have so far sold more than 2.7 million tickets for the 64 matches, 58 percent of them to fans in the home nation. There are 200,000 currently on sale to the general public waiting to be snapped up, he said. Of the more than 3 million tickets that will be available, 1.7 million were bought by fans through the FIFA ticketing web site, an increase of 400,000 on the previous record number sold that way in Germany in 2006.

FIFA is concerned about recent violence in Brazil less than two months before it hosts the World Cup but remains confident the country will stage “the biggest party on Earth,” FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said Thursday. The latest outburst began on Tuesday when residents of a Rio de Janeiro slum rioted following the killing of a popular local figure, a death they blamed on police. Angry residents set fires and showered homemade explosives and bottles onto a busy avenue in Rio’s main tourist zone. Weil told reporters in Rio that while the images being broadcast around the world of the riots are not pretty, “we strongly believe in the country, in the cities, in the government and their advance of security.”

“From our commercial partners, which will bring a lot of guests to Brazil, for sure there are lots of discussions on the riots, whether it will happen again like it did in the Confederations Cup, so there are lots of questions,” he said. “But I can guarantee that no one has retracted from bringing guests because everybody strongly believes that this will be the biggest party on Earth.” Police in Brazil began an ambitious program in 2008 to drive gangs from Rio’s slums as part of security push ahead of the World Cup that kicks off in June. The increased police presence has brought security improvements and lowered the kinds of shootouts that were once common in many of the slums. But many residents complain about heavy-handed police tactics. More than 20 officers who patrolled Rio’s largest slum now face charges for the torture, disappearance and presumed death of a slum dweller during a police interrogation last year.

Many slum-dwellers also say the state has been slow to follow up on promises of improved education and health programs while it has squandered billions trying to prepare for the World Cup. FIFA has sold about 2.7 million tickets for the tournament’s 64 games so far, Weil said, adding that some 200,000 are still available for the general public. But FIFA still can’t say exactly how many tickets it will make available because it lacks information on the number of seats in the stadiums following repeated construction delays ahead of the tournament. A final figure could come by mid-May, and sales for games, including the opening match and the final, might be available right after that. For now, FIFA has held back seven percent of tickets as a safety cushion.

The World Cup was to have served as a stepping-out party announcing Brazil’s arrival on the global stage. But chronic construction delays have turned into an embarrassment for many, stoking public anger over poor public services, the high cost of living and corruption scandals. Many Brazilians say that even if their beloved team lifts the World Cup trophy on July 13, the country has already lost.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has played down concerns over Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup by saying he’s never known a host nation get everything ready on time. Blatter, who was greeted by placard-wielding protesters in Hong Kong, urged people to be “optimistic” about the June-July event despite construction delays and demonstrations. “This is my 10th World Cup since I have joined the FIFA organization and I have never seen a World Cup that has everything ready on-time during that span,” Blatter said on Thursday, according to a statement from the Hong Kong FA. “Four years ago, I remember people said that we should not have gone to South Africa and that people should be wearing bullet-proof vests when they are on the street.

“I urge you to be optimistic as we are optimistic. Football is stronger than any outside power as it is being played everywhere in the world, and I believe it is going to be a great World Cup tournament in Brazil.”
Blatter’s visit to inaugurate the HKFA’s new offices was disrupted by about a dozen people protesting against construction worker deaths in 2022 World Cup host Qatar. He used a back entrance to sidestep the demonstration and his address was nearly drowned out by the protesters shouting slogans over loudspeakers, the South China Morning Post said. Brazil’s World Cup has been plagued by delays to stadium and infrastructure projects and sizeable public opposition to investing in the tournament rather than basic services. And Qatar has come under fire for its treatment of migrant workers with the International Trade Union Confederation warning that as many as 4,000 might die by the time the tournament kicks off.

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