Valcke back in Brazil to inspect WCup host cities
SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke is back in Brazil to continue his tour of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup.
Valcke is visiting the jungle city of Manaus on Tuesday and the western city of Cuiaba on Wednesday. He will end his trip by participating in a board meeting of the local organizing committee on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.
"The visits are very important not only to see the stadiums and the general infrastructure progress but also to be able to discuss with the host cities and states representatives our joint mission, as they are providing the essential playing field for the teams and their fans," Valcke said.
The secretary general is expected to visit all 12 host cities by the end of the year. He visited Recife, Natal and Brasilia in June, and Salvador and Fortaleza in January.
Former Brazil striker Ronaldo and sports ministry official Luis Fernandes, members of the local organizing committee, will be accompanying Valcke in this week's tour.
In Manaus, they will meet with local government officials and visit the 44,000-capacity Amazon Arena, which was 42 percent completed by July, according to organizers. The stadium, which will host four group-stage matches, is expected to be ready by mid-2013.
Located in the Amazon rain forest, Manaus will be a major attraction in two years, and improving local infrastructure for World Cup visitors is one of the priorities for the local government. Travel logistics will prove a challenge, too, as the northwestern city is one of the most isolated among the 12 World Cup venues.
On Wednesday, Valcke will check on the progress of preparations in Cuiaba, which also will host four group matches in 2014. The 43,000-capacity Pantanal Arena was 46 percent completed in July, according to local organizers. It is expected to be ready by the end of this year.
Cuiaba is located in the geographic center of the South American continent. It's also a popular tourist destination because it is located by the savannahs of the Cerrado, the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rain forest.
"This time our journey will take us to two very special places in Brazil, the Amazon and the gateway to the Pantanal, perfect examples of the beautiful diversity of the country," Valcke said.
In October, Valcke is expected to visit the southern city of Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, which will host the World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium. Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba are expected to be inspected by the end of the year. Sao Paulo will host the World Cup opener.
Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950.
The Maracana also will host the final of next year's Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament featuring matches in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Salvador and Fortaleza.
Recife and Salvador still have to show FIFA that it will be able to host matches in the Confederations Cup. Local officials have until November to show they can be included.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni