“We don’t have stadiums, we don’t have airports,” secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Friday at the Inside World Football forum in Moscow.
He added it looked increasingly likely that some facilities, including Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana, would be ready with only a few weeks to spare.
“The Maracana is not a World Cup stadium” yet, Valcke said, adding that in Brazil “the main issue is not to organize the World Cup but to win the World Cup.”
Brazil, which won hosting rights by default after other South American nations withdrew their bids, has been mired in organizational and bureaucracy problems since it was announced as host in 2007.
Builders working on one of the stadiums only this week returned to work after going on strike over pay and conditions. About 160 of the nearly 400 workers helping to upgrade Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte stopped working this month. The agreement includes a four percent wage hike, a health plan and more overtime pay.
Belo Horizonte is one of the cities vying to host the opening match. Others include the capital, Brasilia, and Sao Paulo, South America’s biggest city.
Brazilian lawmakers this month were forced to approve a raft of measures aimed at reducing the paperwork needed to clear various infrastructure projects. The changes reduce the time to conclude the bidding processes on tenders, eliminating some stages and need for approval.
Valcke urged Russia, which is hosting the event for the first time in 2018, to have the required 12 stadiums ready two years in advance to allow time for test events, a luxury Brazil won’t have. Russia is building most of the facilities from scratch in a $10 billion project, a budget that doesn’t include the massive infrastructure improvements needed such as rail networks and new roads and airport upgrades.
It was Valcke’s first public appearance since FIFA exonerated him of wrongdoing for saying Qatar had “bought” the 2022 World Cup hosting rights. Valcke alluded to the maelstrom of corruption allegations to dog FIFA in recent months, beginning his keynote speech by saying “it’s good to talk about football. I mean, we need it at FIFA sometimes.”