Men work at the Itaquerao, the stadium that will host the World Cup opener in less than three months in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, March 15, 2014. The Itaquerao was one of the six stadiums that were supposed to be finished by the end of 2013, but a crane collapse that killed two workers in November caused significant delays to the venue where Brazil will play Croatia on June 12. The stadium is not expected to be ready before mid-April. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
São Paulo (AP) – Safety problems at the stadium hosting the World Cup opener in Brazil were being ignored so work could finish in time for the tournament, a top labor official said in an interview published on Thursday.
One of the main labor ministry officials in São Paulo told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that inspectors were "looking the other way" so the already-delayed stadium would be completed before the June 12 opener.
Also on Thursday, São Paulo state prosecutors released a statement pointing to irregularities at the Itaquerao stadium, saying it could close the venue "even during the World Cup" if problems weren't fixed.
Labor officials halted the installation of 20,000 temporary seats on Monday, saying new safety measures had to be added following the death of a 23-year-old worker on Saturday.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter weighed in on the matter, saying the World Cup will be "well done," but he criticized Brazilian authorities for starting late on stadium projects and for not providing enough worker safety.
Blatter spoke on Thursday in the Costa Rican capital, where he was attending the Under-17 Women's World Cup.
Blatter said FIFA could not take responsibility for the death of a worker last week at the stadium in São Paulo. Seven workers have been killed at World Cup venues, five in the last six months with work speeding to finish for the opening match in 10 weeks on June 12.
"Who is responsible for this?" he asked. "Is it FIFA? They are pointing at FIFA, and it's not true. It's basic to provide workers with safe conditions to do the work. We can't go and watch at every construction site."
Three stadiums are still being built in the southern cities of São Paulo and Curitiba, and the western city of Cuiaba.
A fourth stadium, already opened in Porto Alegre, has been hampered by a dispute about how to pay for temporary facilities for television, hospitality and security.
Despite the problems, Blatter predicted the World Cup would be a success.
"Brazil will be a well-done World Cup," he said. "Some of the delays is because there was no work for years. But we're on the way now to finishing the stadiums."
Brazil is spending about $3.5 billion on 12 stadiums, and the costs keep rising. Many related infrastructure projects promised for the World Cup — like train lines, expanded airports and new roads — have been put off or cancelled.