Brazil official urges Cuiabá to ensure stadium ready for World Cup

Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:29pm EST
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By Brian Winter and Anthony Boadle

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's government on Monday urged officials in the city of Cuiabá to do whatever necessary to get its stadium ready in time for this year's World Cup soccer tournament, following a prosecutors' report that an October fire at the venue caused far more damage than previously disclosed.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo downplayed the severity of the October 25 fire at Cuiabá's Arena Pantanal, which he described as "small," but he acknowledged that prosecutors in Mato Grosso state, where the stadium is located, have demanded a new, independent evaluation of its safety following the report of structural damage there.

The state government gave reporters a tour on Monday of the area where the fire hit, and no signs of damage were apparent.

An independent consultant was also due to visit the Cuiabá stadium on Monday and report his findings back to Brazilian officials and FIFA, soccer's governing body, which has said it was unaware of any structural damage caused by the fire.

Prosecutors have said they will not allow games to be played at the stadium until they are certain it is structurally sound. A test match between Brazilian soccer teams is slated for early April, while the first World Cup match to be played in Cuiabá is set for June 13, between Chile and Australia.

"We recommended to the (stadium's) owner, which is the state government, and the companies building it that they adopt all measures so that the stadium can be ready" for the World Cup, Rebelo told reporters, without offering further details.

His comments, the first by a senior federal official since Reuters disclosed the contents of the prosecutors' report on Saturday, came at a news conference in Brasilia with FIFA's secretary general, Jerome Valcke.

Valcke deferred a question about the stadium to Rebelo.   Continued...

A view of a damaged steel rebar and concrete inside the Arena Pantanal soccer stadium in Cuiaba from a fire that occurred on October 25, 2013, in this photo taken for the technical report prepared by the Mato Grosso State Prosecutor's Office on November 14, 2013, and distributed to Reuters on February 17, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Almeida Nery-Mato Grosso State Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters