SAO PAULO: The still-unfinished stadium hosting the World Cup opening game on June 12 held its first official match Sunday, getting off to a shaky start after delays and deadly accidents marred its construction.
Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena – over-budgeted, under construction and operating at less than full capacity 25 days from football's largest showcase – hosted a Brazilian league game in which underdogs Figueirense upset home team Corinthians and rain drenched fans left exposed by the unfinished roof.
The soaked fans sought cover in higher rows, which had not sold out, as they watched their team lose 1-0 to the lowest-ranking side in the table.
About 36,000 fans turned up for the game – less than the 40,000 tickets that were on sale, and well below the 68,000 expected for World Cup matches.
The venue and surrounding area still look very much like a construction site, with cranes and scaffolding visible and some VIP areas unfinished. Long lines formed at the entrance to one wing of the stadium, where only half the four elevators were working.
After the match, there was not enough light for fans to find their way to their cars, leaving them to use their cell phones as flashlights. The security perimeter around the stadium was also smaller than that required by Fifa, and metal detectors demanded by the world football governing body were not yet installed.
Long past the original deadline
Fifa originally demanded Brazil have all 12 host stadiums ready for December 31, but deadline after deadline has passed and eight workers have been killed in construction accidents.
Sao Paulo was picked to host the World Cup kick-off in October 2011, four months after work started on the stadium. The Itaquerao, as the venue is known, will host six World Cup matches in all, including a semi-final.
After numerous delays, the stadium is now due to be handed over to Fifa Wednesday, nearly five months behind schedule, without having held a capacity crowd. Corinthians say the stadium will end up costing between $411 million and $424 million — between 14% and 18% over its original budget.
"We and the builder left a lot of things until the last minute," admitted Corinthians construction manager Andres Sanchez.
A former chairman of the club, he also said if he were in Fifa's place he would regret awarding the World Cup to Brazil, which has also been hit by protests against the more than $11 billion being spent on the tournament.
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