Brazil races to finish World Cup opener arena

Brazil races to finish World Cup opener arena
View of the Arena da Baixada stadium during a FIFA inspection in Curitiba, Brazil.

SAO PAULO - Brazilian workers are racing to complete the stadium that will host the World Cup's first game, wiping seats, checking beams and installing wiring just days before the opening whistle.

As night fell on Saturday, helmeted workers were still toiling away on two long-delayed stands of Sao Paulo's new Corinthians Arena where Brazil will take on Croatia on Thursday.

A worker sat on a beam as he reviewed the structure under the south-side stand, which is surrounded by a massive grey tarp.

In the back, two workers stood on a lift raised to the top of the stand, also appearing to review the structure.

Six others wiped sand from the white seats whose sturdiness was tested with sandbags.

The 61,600-capacity stadium has come to symbolize Brazil's struggle to be ready on time for the World Cup as authorities scramble to finish five of the tournament's 12 venues.

The original deadline was December 31, but preparations have been hit by chronic delays, cost overruns and construction accidents that killed eight workers, including three in Sao Paulo.

The Corinthians Arena has never been tested at full capacity due to the delays in the two temporary stands, which together will welcome a total of 20,000 fans.

Despite the last-minute effort, construction workers told AFP they were confident they would wrap up their work before Brazilian star Neymar and crew hit the field.

"There's still much to do," said one worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Another used his sleeve to wipe sweat away from his forehead as he said: "It will be ready before the World Cup." His colleague was more bullish, predicting it would be done Tuesday.

The workers said they still have to finish installing electrical wires and carpeting but that the seats were ready.

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