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Valcke praises work in WCup host city of Manaus

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SAO PAULO (AP) -FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke continued his tour of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday, praising the work done in the jungle city of Manaus.

Valcke met with local government officials and visited the 44,000-capacity Amazon Arena, which will host four group-stage matches in the World Cup. The stadium is 44 percent completed and is expected to be ready by mid-2013.

"We are leaving certain that if the work continues at this pace we won't have to worry about not having the project completed in time," Valcke said. "When Brazil was chosen as host it seemed obvious that Manaus would become a host city. It would be hard to imagine a World Cup without the Amazon involved. The Amazon belongs to the world and the world needs the Amazon."

Located at the heart of the rain forest, Manaus will be a major attraction in two years, and improving local infrastructure for World Cup visitors is one of the priorities for the local government. Travel logistics will prove a challenge as the northwestern city is one of the most isolated among the 12 World Cup venues.

"The government doing is everything needed to make sure all FIFA requirements are fulfilled," said Amazonas state vice governor Jose Melo.

Valcke will visit the western city of Cuiaba on Wednesday and end his trip by participating in a board meeting of the local organizing committee on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.

The secretary general is expected to visit all 12 host cities by the end of the year. He visited Recife, Natal and Brasilia in June, and Salvador and Fortaleza in January.

He said the visits are important to allow FIFA to see the progress on the stadiums and the general infrastructure, and to continue to evaluate and discuss the preparation plans with local officials.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo and sports ministry official Luis Fernandes and members of the local organizing committee are accompanying Valcke on this week's tour.

Cuiaba will also host four group matches in 2014. The 43,000-capacity Pantanal Arena was 46 percent completed in July, according to local organizers. It is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

The city is located in the geographic center of the South American continent, exactly in between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It's also a popular tourist destination because it is located by the savannahs of the Cerrado, the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rain forest.

"This time our journey will take us to two very special places in Brazil, the Amazon and the gateway to the Pantanal, perfect examples of the beautiful diversity of the country," Valcke said.

In October, Valcke is expected to visit the southern city of Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, which will host the World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium. Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba are expected to be inspected by the end of the year. Sao Paulo will host the World Cup opener.

Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950.

The Maracana will also host the final of next year's Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament which will also have matches in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Salvador and Fortaleza.

Recife and Salvador still have to show FIFA that it will be able to host matches in the Confederations Cup. Local officials have until November to show they can be included.

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Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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