Football: Stadium debates rage as FIFA returns to Brazil

Football: Stadium debates rage as FIFA returns to Brazil
View of the Arena da Baixada stadium during a FIFA inspection in Curitiba, Brazil.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Heated debate on the cost of temporary World Cup stadium facilities saw lawmakers in the southern Brazilian state of Porto Alegre back a plan for tax incentives late Tuesday to pay for temporary stadium facilities.

Lawmakers voted to pass a package offering the incentives to private firms stumping up around US$11 million (S$14 million) for facilities at the Beira Mar stadium after the local prefecture had warned the stadium might otherwise have to pull out of the World Cup.

The move canme as FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke prepared for Thursday's board meeting of the World Cup Organizing Committee (LOC) in Rio de Janeiro.

Valcke arrived back in Brazil on Monday and tweeted optimism that, despite three stadiums still not being finished, things would be all right on the night - a regular refrain as Brazil has struggled to get ready for the event.

"Good to be back in Brazil. 80 days to the #World Cup," Valcke had tweeted on arrival, before insisting: "Together with the LOC & Brazil, we'll find solutions for the remaining challenges." Those "challenges" are myriad, as the clock ticks down to kick-off at a Sao Paulo stadium slated to set the ball rolling on June 12 but still unfinished following a fatal accident last November.

Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Cuiaba remain unfinished but Tuesday's focus was Porto Alegre after the southern venue warned Monday that money has to be found for temporary facilities or it may withdraw.

Regional lawmakers were debating into the night with one, Paulo Odone, complaining: "What we are seeing here is the theatre of the absurd.

"The only contract that exists regarding (who pays for) temporary structures is between FIFA and Sport Club Internacional," the Porto Alegre stadium owner.

"There is no responsibility either for the state or the prefecture in this matter," stormed Odone, as lawmakers debated whether public money needed to be put into the hat for facilities such as press areas.

Across Brazil, local authorities in the 12 venue cities are doing all they can to limit spending of public money on the World Cup with many citizens already protesting at a bill topping US$11 billion.

Two years after saying the World Cup hosts merited a "kick up the backside" for being slow out of the starting blocks in preparations for the event, Valcke heads to Thursday's LOC board meeting with such doubts still hanging in the air.

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