Football: Sao Paulo stadium handed to owners, unfinished

A general view of the Arena Sao Paulo stadium, which will host the opening soccer match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Sao Paulo on April 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A general view of the Arena Sao Paulo stadium, which will host the opening soccer match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Sao Paulo on April 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO (AFP) - The construction firm behind the new World Cup stadium at Sao Paulo, due to stage the opening match on June 12, Tuesday handed over the site to owners Corinthians, although work has yet to be completed ahead of a planned mid-May handover to FIFA.

In a symbolic handover to first division outfit Corinthians, Antonio Gavioli, contracts' director with constructor Odebrecht, handed a commemorative plaque to club chairman Mario Gobbi and former chairman Andres Sanchez, now overseeing the site.

The stadium, which will host Brazil's curtain-raiser against Croatia on June 12, has been beset by delays, following two fatal accidents during construction which killed three site workers.

Corinthians are due to hand over the stadium to FIFA on May 20, less than a month before kick-off, but Gobbi lauded Tuesday's handover.

"We feel great emotion. In this symbolic act, Corinthians have received their own home from Odebrecht and Corinthians is going to pay for this construction," Gobbi noted.

He conceded "a few weeks work" are still required for finalising the facility with temporary stands still to be finished off.

FIFA had originally demanded that all 12 World Cup venues be ready by December 31.

But an accident which saw a crane fall across the stands last November, killing two workers, and then another fatality in March caused major delay with work on the areas affected brought to a temporary standstill pending tightened worker security.

In total, seven stadium workers have been killed during Brazil's Cup preparations - three more at Manaus and one in the capital Brasilia.

The Corinthians Arena now has to pass fire safety tests before a first official test game can be held at the venue on May 17, a league match between Corinthians and Figueirense. Three smaller-scale events are planned beforehand later this month.

Sanchez has indicated that the stadium will end up costing between 920 and 950 million reais ($515-531 million), or some 14 to 18 per cent more than initial estimates.

Aside from Sao Paulo, three other stadiums - Porto Alegre, Cuiaba and Curitiba - also still have to be finalized.

FIFA at one stage threatened to exclude Curitiba before relenting in February after the pace of work was stepped up with more workers drafted.