Final test for unfinished Sao Paulo venue
General view of the Corinthians Arena during a Brazilian championship match between Corinthians and Figueirense in Sao Paulo, on May 18, 2014 - by Nelson Almeida
Yet that scenario has come to pass and the much-delayed Corinthians Arena will be less than three-quarters full for Sunday's final test match to help assess the stadium's readiness.
With two temporary seating areas unfinished, only around 40,000 fans will be able to attend the league match between stadium owners Corinthians and Rio side Botafogo, which kicks off at 1900 GMT.
Firefighting authorities have not authorized the host club to open one seating area and only 5,000 fans will be allowed into another unfinished section, the company installing the structures, Fast Engenharia, told AFP.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke tweeted after visiting the stadium on May 21 that "it is vital for us that all facilities will be tested under full match conditions including the temporary seats & associated facilities."
Sunday's below-capacity test will therefore fall short of that.
- All eyes on stadiums -
Sao Paulo's stadium is set to welcome 65,000 spectators to the June 12 World Cup opening fanfare which pits hosts and five-time champions Brazil against Croatia.
But Sunday's match will not meet FIFA's demands for a near full-capacity test following a slew of delays in construction and the deaths of three construction workers -- one of whom fell from an unfinished seating area on March 21.
The labor ministry halted work for a fortnight thereafter and demanded safety improvements.
Eventually, the stadium -- known as Itaquerao after the part of the city in which it stands -- held a first test game on May 18 between Corinthians and Figueirense.
The 36,000 fans at that opening test faced broken elevators, exterior lighting problems, patchy cell-phone connectivity and a drenching storm that forced some to move to higher seats because part of the glass-paneled roof was still unfinished.
Brazil officially handed the arena over to FIFA on May 21, long past the original December 31 deadline for all 12 stadiums.
Corinthians say the venue will end up costing between 920 million and 950 million reais ($417 million and $431 million) -- or 14 to 18 percent over its original budget.
The stadium will not merely host the opening game -- it will be the theater for the pomp of an opening ceremony to be transmitted by some 600 broadcasters to a worldwide audience of around a billion people.
- 'Hell' -
The 25-minute spectacle will feature 600 artists and incorporate the World Cup anthem "We Are One" sung by rapper Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte.
Valcke said Friday he would not attend Sunday's test match, preferring to leave operational experts to oversee the final preparations as they "test all aspects and then make the final adjustments to ensure all will be perfect for the opening ceremony and the opening match on 12 June."
Valcke has already candidly admitted, however, that FIFA has been through "hell," cajoling and marshaling organizers to jump through the various logistical hoops involved in staging the event.
Away from Sao Paulo, the city of Curitiba almost lost the right to remain a venue over its own delays, Porto Alegre has been racing to finish the area outside the venue itself and a worker died at Cuiaba on May 8.
Just this week, Valcke had a nasty surprise at Natal, whose stadium was inaugurated in January but where thousands of seats still have to be put in.
Valcke tweeted a picture to show his frustration.
As the clock ticks down and the tardy host cities strain to put the finishing touches on their venues, Brazil must also face the likelihood of renewed social protests over the $11 billion cost of the Cup.
Many civilians say it would have been far better to put more government cash into sagging public infrastructure and sub-standard state health and education systems.
But the World Cup bill might have gone even higher with more cities involved. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last week that Brazil initially wanted to host matches in not just 12 but 17 venues.