Brazil plays down delays in World Cup preparations
Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo on Thursday played down delays in Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup and in legislative approval of a bill regulating the top sporting event.
"The only thing that is not late in Brazil is a football match. The whistle goes off at the exact time. We will deliver the essential stadium projects and the urban mass transit" in time for the 2014 World Cup, the minister said in an interview with state radio and television.
Football's world governing body FIFA has for months voiced concern over whether infrastructure projects and renovation or construction of stadiums, are on track for the first World Cup in football-mad Brazil since 1950.
"We will carry out the task of staging the World Cup," Rebelo said as he reviewed the main stadium projects in the 12 Brazilian cities that will host World Cup games,
He compared the World Cup preparations to a carnival parade.
"Whoever follows preparations for a samba school parade thinks it will not be ready, but every year it comes out on time and becomes an event of reference," he said.
He also referred to the World Cup law currently blocked in the Chamber of Deputies.
"This delay will not affect the schedule," Rebelo said and insisted that all the commitments to FIFA contemplated in the bill have already been guaranteed by the Brazilian government.
The bill sought by FIFA since 2007 would notably lift a ban on beer sales in stadiums during the World Cup. The vote has been repeatedly postponed.
Sales of alcoholic beverages in sports arenas have been banned in Brazil since 2003, but the bill would create an exception, allowing beer to be sold in plastic cups at World Cup matches.
FIFA has an agreement with its sponsor, the US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser, and prohibiting beer sales would cut into the football organization's revenues from the games.
The bill would also authorize 300,000 low-cost tickets for students and people over the age of 60.
Rebelo expressed confidence that Congress will approve the bill in March or April.
Last week President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter put a final end to a bitter row over criticism of Brazilian preparations for the World Cup.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke sparked howls of protest earlier this month when he said the Brazilian organizers of football's 2014 showpiece needed a "kick up the backside" because preparations were running behind schedule.
FIFA subsequently apologized for Valcke's remarks, which offended Brazilian authorities.