An October fire at a Brazilian World Cup stadium "caused far more damage than previously reported," raising questions about "whether the stadium will be ready for the competition and why government officials have insisted the blaze was minor," according to Brian Winter of REUTERS. Officials overseeing construction of the still-unfinished Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiabá, which is among 12 Brazilian cities scheduled to host games, "have long said the October 25 fire wasn't a major cause for concern." However, an 18-page report prepared in December by the Mato Grosso state Public Ministry, an independent judicial body similar to the district attorney's office in the U.S., warned that the blaze caused "structural damage" that "could compromise the overall stability of the construction." The report "was delivered in December to the state agency overseeing the stadium's construction," the Extraordinary Secretariat for the World Cup, or Secopa. It "is unclear" whether the damage described in the report has since been fixed. Prosecutors are scheduled to conduct a follow-up inspection of the fire site next Thursday, and they said that "they hoped the disclosure of the report's contents would lead local officials to be more cooperative and transparent than they have until now." Mato Grosso state government officials "continue to say that the fire did not cause structural damage." On Saturday, Secopa sent a statement reiterating that it had received reports "guaranteeing that there was no structural damage to the Arena Pantanal, and that all the necessary repairs to the area caused by the fire have already been (made)." Public Ministry Prosecutor Clovis de Almeida said, "It has been impossible to get good information to this point. We will make sure that no games occur (at the stadium) until the safety is completely guaranteed" (REUTERS, 2/15).
CURITIBA PREPARATIONS: The AP reported local organizers in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba insisted that they "have taken all measures requested by FIFA to guarantee its delayed stadium will be finished in time for the World Cup finals." FIFA gave an ultimatum to local organizers last month, saying that they "had until Tuesday to show work at the Arena da Baixada could be finished in time." Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, in charge of the country's World Cup preparations, visited Curitiba last week and said that "everything would be done to try to guarantee the loan as soon as possible" (AP, 2/14).