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FIFA arrives amid doubts about Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke will begin an inspection visit to Brazil on Monday amid a series of concerns about the country's readiness for the 2014 World Cup.

Valcke will visit three host cities less than a week after Brazil's sports minister said the country needs to speed up the pace of construction on five of the six stadiums that must be completed by December.

Monday's visit also comes just days after the government said it is concerned with price hikes of hotels listed on FIFA's website, something that could prompt an investigation into the FIFA-appointed agency in charge of accommodations.

There are also doubts about whether the upgrades needed at the country's airports will be ready in time for the event that kicks off in less than 10 months.

Valcke is making his first visit to Brazil since the end of the Confederations Cup, the tournament that serves as a warm-up to the World Cup. He will check preparations in three of the 12 host cities - Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Manaus. The cities are among the six that must finish their stadiums by the December deadline established by FIFA. The other six venues were completed, despite many delays, just in time for the Confederations Cup.

FIFA has already made it clear that it won't tolerate the same problems faced during the Confederations Cup. Only four stadiums were completed by the original deadline.

Valcke's first stop is in Sao Paulo, host of the World Cup's opening match June 12. There had been concerns about whether the stadium was going to be ready by December, but the construction picked up the pace in recent months, and the Brazilian government said it's not worried anymore.

That is not the case for the other five venues, and the delays prompted Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo to say last week that the host cities were ``facing a tight deadline'' and that there was a need ``to improve the pace in most of the stadiums'' to make sure they can be completed this year.

Four of the stadiums were less than 80 percent completed, including in Curitiba and Manaus, the other two cities visited by Valcke this week. The secretary general's trip will end after he attends a board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.

FIFA and the government want to get the stadiums ready this year so local organizers can host the necessary test events before the World Cup begins. FIFA usually wants at least three test events at each venue, but that wasn't possible in most of the Confederations Cup stadiums because of construction delays.


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The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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