World Cup Organizers Defend Record Despite Accidents

By JOHN LEICESTER | December 18, 2013

Despite the latest death, World Cup organizers said Tuesday they aren’t sacrificing worker safety in a rush to get venues ready for next year’s tournament in Brazil.

“There is never a discussion that says you have to cut any corners to make sure that you deliver the stadium,” Ron DelMont, the managing director of FIFA’s World Cup Brazil Office, said in an interview with a small group of reporters.

DelMont said FIFA has “at no point” suggested loosening its safety requirements and “everything that we ask for is within the legislation and the guidelines of the government.”

“I have to say it’s a bit frustrating to make that kind of suggestion that the event is much more important than the safety of the workers, because it’s not only the safety of the workers, it’s the safety of the spectators,” he said. “So we don’t compromise at all.”

A worker fell 35 meters (115 feet) to his death on Saturday at the Arena Amazonia in the jungle city of Manaus. It was the second death at the stadium in less than a year, and the fifth at a World Cup venue in the past two years.

In the same interview, Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said he’s “pretty sure” that accident rates on World Cup venues are “well under” those in other sectors of Brazilian construction.

“It’s a tragedy for all of us but I would not credit that to any undue pressure,” Fernandes said of the death in Manaus. “There are accidents that are involved when you have so many thousands of workers.”

He noted that the construction companies at nearly all stadiums “are very experienced” and global. He promised “full punishment under the rule of law” for any firm that violates Brazil’s “very strict, rigid, firm, labor protection laws.”

“Those labor protection laws have to be applied and are applied,” he said.

Two workers were killed when a crane collapsed on Nov. 27 as it was hoisting a 500-ton piece of roofing at the stadium in Sao Paulo that will host the World Cup opener. Last year, a worker died at the construction site of the stadium in Brasilia. The other death in Manaus happened in March.

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