Brazilian president hits out at 2014 World Cup critics over delays

BRAZIL - Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hit out at critics of the country's preparations for the 2014 World Cup yesterday after a report highlighted serious delays in preparations for the huge event.

Brazil's budget watchdog found that most works, including stadiums, adjacent roads and urban developments, hotels and transport infrastructure were "impressively late," it was reported yesterday.

The report by the TCU watchdog echoes concerns voiced by soccer world governing body Fifa in recent months over slow progress in the construction of stadiums and other infrastructure.

"The World Cup in South Africa has finished and they have already started saying 'where are the Brazilian airports, where are the Brazilian stadiums, where are the Brazilian train lines, where are the Brazilian subway lines' as if we were a band of idiots who didn't know how to do things or define our priorities," Lula said.

Lula was speaking at an event launching the bidding process for a bullet train line between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The line will not be ready in time for the World Cup, although Lula said it could be ready for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The award of the World Cup and Olympics was seen as a stamp of approval on Brazil's economic revival under Lula.

But only three of the 12 stadiums that need to be ready met a May 3 deadline set by Fifa for construction work to begin.

Planned expansions of the country's airports are also lagging.

An apparent lack of planning and mounting execution problems could lead the Brazilian government to intervene and take over unfinished works for the World Cup, TCU councillor Valmir Campelo reportedly said.

On Monday, Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said Brazil faced similar execution challenges to South Africa and warned the South American country was way off the pace in its preparations.