RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The head of last year's World Cup in South Africa has urged his Brazilian counterparts to keep a close eye on building schedules to make sure the 2014 tournament is ready on time.
Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Brazil faced a "big challenge" to ensure the country is ready.
"It requires strict monitoring and control, and I just hope that Brazil will focus on that," Jordaan said.
FIFA officials have repeatedly said preparations are behind schedule. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told Brazilian lawmakers recently that the pace had to be stepped up, saying "we are late, we can't lose a day."
Brazil's World Cup will be played in 12 far-flung venues, including a 44,000-seat stadium being built in Manaus in the far northwestern state of Amazonas. All 12 will host at least four matches, possibly causing travel problems and raising concerns about how much use they'll receive after the tournament.
Jordaan acknowledged that several stadiums of the 10 used at last year's World Cup have been "struggling" without soccer teams to occupy them.
The Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg is prospering, Jordaan said. But most of the others lack permanent tenants, including an iconic venue in Cape Town.
"Two stadiums, Nelspruit and Polokwane, are struggling because there is no major football team in the area. But those issues are being addressed," Jordaan said.
Jordaan was in Rio de Janeiro to speak at Soccerex, a global trade show for the soccer industry. Alongside him on the panel was Zahira Asmal, an urban design specialist who served as a consultant for the South African organizers.
She told the AP afterward that filling the empty stadiums is a "big problem."
"When you consider the beautiful buildings you've created, you have to consider how you fill them up with local people, not necessarily international teams," Asmal said. "I think the government at all tiers needs to work with institutions and say: 'What can we do? It's beautiful. Don't tear it down. Do something with it.'"
At least four of the 12 venues in Brazil will be in cities without first-division teams in Brazil: Manaus, Cuiaba, Brasilia and Natal.
"My advice to the cities in Brazil is to design their systems before their buildings," Asmal said.
Asmal suggested that much of South Africa's World Cup development had not been aimed at the working class. She said Brazil faced the same problem.
"There is still an apartheid mindset in South Africa, unfortunately, and I don't think South Africa is exclusive to this," Asmal said. "I think Brazil is as well. The government needs to decide what do they most want — social cohesion or a gentrified society.
"You can blame FIFA as much as you want. But the cities also want to have the coliseums where their players feel great and their citizens feel great to attend."
Brazil's biggest stadium project is the renovation of Rio de Janeiro's historic Maracana stadium, which is closed for a $590 million facelift. The project has been delayed and costs are about $200 million more than expected.
"Our schedule is on time," said Marcia Lins, the secretary of state for Sport and Leisure for the state of Rio de Janeiro.
She said the project would be finished by February 2013, several months before the Confederations Cup — an eight-team tournament used to prepare for the World Cup a year later.
"Maracana will be the final for the Confederations Cup and the final for the World Cup in 2014," she added. "I am totally confident."
Follow Stephen Wade at https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP