Brazil President Dilma Rousseff unveiled a plaque marking the completion of the renovation of the Castelão stadium in Fortaleza. The 63,903-seat arena is Brazil's first 2014 World Cup stadium to be inaugurated and will host six World Cup and three 2013 Confederations Cup matches. Dilma said that the arena makes all Brazilians proud, and demonstrates to the world that Brazil is capable of staging the biggest sporting events in the coming years (SECOM). The BBC noted FIFA had "repeatedly expressed concern" over World Cup delays, including at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium. Castelão and the Maracana are among six venues that must be ready to host Confederations Cup matches next June. The Castelão was renovated at a cost of $250M. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, "This is a very special day for us at FIFA because it marks the two great events that will take place in Brazil in the coming years, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup." In recent years, FIFA officials have criticized Brazilian preparations with General Secretary Jérôme Valcke at one point saying Brazil needed "a kick up the backside." But in recent weeks, FIFA officials have "sounded more upbeat," saying that they expect all 12 stadiums to be ready on time (BBC, 12/17).
It "may not be all doom and gloom for the supporters of Hereford racecourse, which held its final meeting for the foreseeable future on Sunday," according to David August of the London DAILY MAIL. Racecourse owners Arena Racing Company, which also runs Folkestone (due to race for the last time on Tuesday) claims it is "still open to negotiation and that the track could re-open at some stage in the future." Assistant Racing Dir Jim Allen said, "There are still 17 years left on the lease and any racecourse or body can come and talk to us about it." Disputes with the local council over the lease "have led to Arena deciding to curtail a business which it says is not financially viable." Even if this is the case, any of the remaining races of even vague importance "have long been transferred elsewhere." Recent investment in the facilities at the venue "is non-existent, with the bar for owners and trainers, for example, housed in a fairly dilapidated shack." A decent crowd of 2,600 watched the last race Hereford's 241-year history (DAILY MAIL, 12/16).