Work restarts at World Cup stadium after 8 months

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Construction has recommenced at Beira-Rio Stadium following an eight-month stoppage that had jeopardized the venue's status as a host for the 2014 World Cup.

Bulldozers and workers were back at the construction site in Porto Alegre on Wednesday after a deal was reached on a partnership to renovate the venue in time for the World Cup.

Work was halted last year because Brazilian club Internacional and the construction company involved in the project, Andrade Gutierrez, were not able to come up with financial guarantees. They reached a partnership agreement this week after months of negotiations, ensuring the stadium will be finished by the end of 2013, as initially planned.

Beira-Rio will host five World Cup matches, including one in the second round.

The difficulties in signing the partnership had been worrying World Cup organizers, and the Beira-Rio Stadium was in danger of being dropped as a tournament venue. That would have left Porto Alegre having to find a new venue.

"We sealed the partnership with one of the biggest construction companies in the world," Internacional president Giovanni Luigi said. "I am thankful to everyone who helped this end the best way possible. Now the future is ahead of us. The World Cup is ours."

Internacional rival Gremio has been building a new arena in Porto Alegre, and many wanted that venue to replace the Beira-Rio Stadium for the World Cup.

The arena, built following FIFA standards, is nearly 60 percent complete and club officials have been saying all along that it will be available for World Cup matches if required.

Organizers are against making a switch this late, however, because the new venue would have to go through FIFA's entire approval process from the start before being allowed to host matches. The Gremio arena will likely be used as a training venue only.

Work at the Beira-Rio is only about 20 percent complete, but Internacional and Andrade Gutierrez said the stoppage didn't change the expected completion time of the project, which remains December 2013, as promised to FIFA.

Cleanup work will be begin in the first few days, but about 1,500 workers will be at the construction site once the renovation project is at full steam.

A FIFA team inspecting the host cities earlier this month found an empty construction site when they visited the Beira-Rio Stadium, but football's governing body didn't publicly express concern with the situation at the stadium. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said last week after a visit with the local government that he was confident that all venues will be ready in time, including the Beira-Rio.

Internacional, a two-time Copa Libertadores champion, started renovating the stadium by itself, and in 2010 it reached a partnership with Andrade Gutierrez to facilitate the completion of the project.

The stadium renovation is expected to cost about $137 million, partly financed with loans from Brazil's National Development Bank.

By the deal signed with Internacional, Andrade Gutierrez will be allowed to receive some of the revenue generated by the stadium for 20 years.

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