Minister cites London problems to defend Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) -Brazil's sports minister dismissed criticism over Brazil's World Cup preparations by saying Wednesday that problems during the London Olympics highlighted that it's impossible to host big sporting events without glitches.

During FIFA's visit to a World Cup stadium in southern Brazil, Aldo Rebelo gave several examples of things that went wrong in London. He said he had to cancel several interviews because of bad traffic, and that the president of Rio's Olympic Authority was robbed while in the British city. He also mentioned communication problems and cases of lost luggage.

Still, he said that nobody overly criticized London organizers or said that the event was a failure because of the glitches.

"The London Games were a great success and happened as planned despite these problems," Rebelo said, according to the Folha de S. Paulo daily.

There has been criticism over Brazil's World Cup preparations recently and it remains unclear whether the country will be able to have all six host cities ready for next year's Confederations Cup.

"We all know the problems that exist. But there are problems even in the world's most advanced countries, and I can cite a few international events in making that point," Rebelo later said in a statement. "However, there's a difference between building an image based on what's gone right and one that's founded on what's gone wrong."

Rebelo is visiting World Cup host cities along with FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke.

Valcke said Tuesday in the first day of the tour that he was concerned with the pace of construction at some stadiums and that local organizers would have to "speed up" the work in the coming months, especially regarding preparations for the Confederations Cup in June.

The cities in danger of not making the tournament are Salvador and Recife. They have until the first week of November to show FIFA they will be ready. Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia have already secured their participation in the warm-up competition for the World Cup.

"We gave the cities time to do the work that needs doing," Valcke said Wednesday. "We've got a group of experts who will evaluate that alongside the local organizing committee."

Rebelo and Valcke praised the work in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday and after visiting Porto Alegre on Wednesday dismissed concerns with construction at the Beira-Rio Stadium, a venue which will host five World Cup games, including one in the second round.

The stadium is less than 40 percent completed, but Valcke said he believes it will be ready in time.

"I can safely say that FIFA need have no concerns as to the city's preparations. It is making good progress and the schedule is being met," he said. "There is still much to be done of course, and we are going to carry on monitoring everything."

Valcke will attend a board meeting of the local organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

The secretary general will visit all 12 host cities by the end of the year. In addition to Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, he has already visited Manaus, Cuiaba, Recife, Natal, Brasilia, Salvador and Fortaleza. Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro will be next.

Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950.

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