BRASILIA, Brazil, November 9 – FIFA’s general secretary Jerome Valcke warned Brazil anew Tuesday that it was running behind schedule in organizing the 2014 World Cup and urged it to speed up construction work.
“We are late, we cannot lose one more day,” he told a parliamentary committee examining legislation on the World Cup.
“Travelling in Brazil is not easy. To drive in Sao Paulo, to go from one end to the other is a nightmare. To leave the airport takes half a day, this cannot happen (during the tournament),” he added.
He urged authorities to redouble efforts to accelerate construction work so as to be able to welcome the hundreds of thousands of tourists that will flock to Brazil for the World Cup.
FIFA has constantly expressed concern over progress being made at the country’s 12 World Cup venues.
In mid-September, the Brazilian government gave assurances that the arenas were on schedule in construction or renovation and will be ready by December 2012.
But the government also admitted that work had not started in five of 13 airports which will welcome millions of tourists.
Brazil, which will also host the 2016 summer Olympics, needs to spend more than $11.4 billion to improve roads, boost security and the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, according to a study by the Getulio Vargas foundation and Ernst & Young consultants.
Valcke said the FIFA Confederations Cup, which will be held in Brazil in 2013, “will be without any doubt a key test for us, but it will be rather late to make fundamental changes. So it is important to accelerate the work now.”
And he conceded that FIFA was not keen on Brazil’s plans to charge cheaper World Cup ticket prices for Brazilians over the age of 60 and students.
“We do not want to interfere with (Brazilian) legislation. We want to see which articles from these laws can be applied to the World Cup and which can’t,” he added.
Valcke said FIFA, keen to prevent sales of tickets on the black market, accepts half price for seniors, but proposes a minimum entrance fee of 25 dollars for students.
Discount tickets represent 10 percent of total tickets for the World Cup in a country where the minimum monthly wage is $314 dollars (240 dollars).
During the parliamentary hearing, some lawmakers, including legendary Barcelona and Brazil striker Romario, took Valcke to task for some of his comments viewed as “threats”.
Now a deputy representing the Brazilian socialist party, Romario, who was a member of the Brazilian squad that won the 1994 World Cup, said he wanted to prevent “FIFA from creating a state within the state.”
And he pointed to the corruption allegations swirling around FIFA.
As Valcke ignored Romario’s remarks, the former soccer star told him: “You have not answered my questions (…) It’s a real circus here.”
Valcke also reiterated FIFA demand for the controlled sale of beer in sport arenas while, under Brazilian law, the sale of alcoholic beverages is banned in stadiums.
“We have an agreement with our partner Budweiser,” he said.
FIFA hopes to reach an agreement on the Brazilian legislation on the World Cup ahead of a meeting between FIFA chief Sepp Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff later this month.