SAO PAULO (AP) — A smaller-than-capacity crowd and a few setbacks marked the final test event at the unfinished stadium set to host the World Cup opener in less than two weeks.
Only 37,000 people attended Sunday’s Brazilian league match at the Itaquerao in Sao Paulo, which won’t hold a full crowd until the opening game between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.
FIFA had requested a second match at the Itaquerao because it wanted to test the venue with the nearly 70,000 fans expected for the opener, but only one of the temporary stands added for the inaugural match could be used because local authorities did not issue the necessary permits to clear them.
There were no major problems inside or outside the stadium, but some fans still complained of difficulties accessing the venue because of heavy traffic and lack of adequate instructions by local authorities.
The match also had to be briefly interrupted after balloons released by fans made it onto the field, and the announcement of a substitution on the stadium’s big screen upset one of the coaches because he had not yet authorized the change.
Fans said it took too long to clear security as metal detectors were used for the first time on Sunday, and some had not been able to enter the stadium by the time the game’s first goal was scored in the 25th minute.
Some people without tickets were able to get past the perimeter set up by local authorities around the stadium. Not all concession stands were working properly, and clearly there was some unfinished work in part of the 20,000 temporary seats installed for the opener.
“We are certain that everything will be ready,” said Tiago Paes, an official with the local World Cup organizing committee. “We have a week-and-a-half of a lot of work, but all is on track to being ready for the opener.”
FIFA and local World Cup organizers were in charge of most of the areas tested on Sunday. There were 800 private security guards working during the match, as well as some 400 volunteers.
The first match at the stadium took place in front of about 36,000 people on May 18, when local organizers admitted there were some problems, including a leaky roof. It’s already known that part of the stadium’s roof will only be completed after the tournament. It rained heavily during the first match but it was dry on Sunday as Corinthians drew Botafogo 1-1.
Botafogo was supposed to be the home team but it agreed to travel to Sao Paulo so another test event could take place at the newly built stadium, which will host a total of six matches during the World Cup, including one of the semifinals.
FIFA usually wants three test events in each stadium before a tournament such as the World Cup, but it had to make exceptions in Brazil because of the chronic delays in most of the 12 venues.
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