Rio De Janerio, May 31: Brazil is facing an international embarrassment over the cancellation of a football match against England, which is sure to raise more red flags concerning the country's readiness to hold the Confederations Cup in two weeks, the World Cup a year from now, and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
A judge on Thursday ordered the cancelation of Brazil's international friendly against England scheduled for Sunday at Rio de Janeiro's newly renovated Maracana stadium, saying the venue is unsafe.
The state government of Rio de Janeiro said it would appeal the decision by judge Adriana Costa dos Santos and believes the stadium meets all the safety standards required. It's possible the judge may back away from her order and the let match go ahead.
Even if it's played, the confusion sends a message that Brazil is unprepared for the Confederations Cup — a World Cup test even with eight teams — and more importantly the World Cup itself, and the Olympics.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, has been complaining openly for a more than a year that Brazil is not ready.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was in Brazil earlier this month to check on venues. He's acknowledged the Confederations Cup will be a maze of unfinished work and admitted that "not all operational arrangements will be 100 percent." He then warned: "This will be impossible to repeat for the FIFA World Cup."
"The World Cup, we can't reduce any requirement," he added. "On any (other) competition that would be fine, except at the World Cup. The World Cup is 99 percent of the FIFA system. The World Cup has to be perfect. The World Cup is the diamond of FIFA."
Early in 2012, Valcke angered Brazil officials with a blunt assessment that made international headlines.
The rift was eventually settled, but delays remain in finishing stadiums and a myriad of other infrastructure like airports, roads and hotels for the World Cup. Much of that infrastructure will not be ready for the Confederations Cup.
FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee tried to distance themselves from the problems, saying they were not responsible for organizing the Brazil vs. England match.
Local organizers, however, acknowledged they are using the match to view "operational areas."
In her ruling, Costa dos Santos said she was cancelling all matches in the stadium until local organizers presented the documents showing that the venue is appropriate to host events. She said the decision was made to guarantee the "safety of fans at the Maracana."
Prosecutors said that the stadium must remain closed until it is shown there will no safety or health risks to the public attending events at the venue. Prosecutors said they received a police report, saying the stadium presented "safety risks" and added that "dangerous materials" were at the site.'
They also noted there were not adequate measures for crowd control at the 79,000-seat venue, which has been renovated several times in recent years with some estimates suggesting $1 billion has been spent.
The government said the problems were due to a "bureaucratic error," and said a report showing that the stadium is safe was not delivered to the proper authorities.
The six stadiums being used for the Confederations Cup are in various stages of readiness. Six others that will be used for next year's World Cup are still being built, and FIFA has demanded they be ready by Dec. 31.
The Maracana stadium in Rio is scheduled to host the Confederations Cup final on June 30, and will be the venue for the World Cup final next year. It is also slated to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff this week praised the six Confederations Cup venues, including Maracana.
"Many people did not think we would be able to build these stadiums before the Confederations Cup at the standards required by FIFA," Rousseff said.
She made reference to what she called the "old-mutt" complex, a sense that Brazil lacked confidence and would fail to meet the challenge.
"But the workers who built these stadiums, the businessmen hired to do these works and all the governments involved have proved that Brazil is able to accept challenges and fulfill promptly commitments undertaken."
In something of a bad omen, the day that Rousseff spoke a small part of the roof at the stadium in Salvador — a Confederations Cup venue — collapsed under the weight of heavy rainfall. There were no injuries.
The stadium that will be used for track and field at the Olympics was also closed earlier this year because of a faulty roof.
The England squad, which is hoping to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, arrived in Rio on Thursday for the match. The England squad is staying at a hotel on Rio's Copacabana Beach.