BRASILIA: Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo is confident that the Estadio das Dunas being built for next year’s World Cup finals in Natal will not become a ‘white elephant’ .

Natal is one of three stadia – along with Brasilia and Manaus – about which particular concern has been expressed, particularly in the wake of widespread popular protests about state and regional expenditure.

Last month Rebelo picked out Natal, along with Curitiba, Manaus, and Porto Alegre, as being among stadia facing a “tight deadline” to meet FIFA’s delivery demands.

However, with 1,800 builders working around three shifts, the Estadio das Dunas has now been placed at near 90pc completion with officials believing that some World Cup-related tests may be possible before the delivery date of December 30.

Rebelo followed up a visit to the site by saying: “All that remains is the finishing, as all of the concrete structure is ready and the roof is already being assembled.”

The Estadio das Dunas will host four group stage games having been rebuilt on the site of the old stadium to a capacity of 42,000. This capacity will be scaled back to 32,000 after the tournament.

However the three leading teams in the North Eastern city, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte state, are ABC, Alecrim and America, who last appeared in Brazil’s Serie A in 1985, 1986 and 2007 respectively.

Business use

Hence Rebelo insisted: “It’s going to be more than just a sport venue. There are always clubs from Rio Grande do Norte competing in Brazil’s Serie A, Serie B or the Copa do Brasil.  A lot of business people will also want to have a shop or a gym here, as the stadium is located in a good area of the city.”

He also repeated earlier assurances that the protests seen during the Confederations Cup will not place the World Cup at risk.

Rebelo said: “We staged the Confederations Cup in six host cities amidst protests of a magnitude never seen before. The teams arrived for their matches, left the airports to go to their hotels, left for the stadiums, came back to their hotels, all managed to arrive at their destination. All fans managed to get to the stadium.

“Protests are part of democracy, but we cannot allow for democracy to turn into violence. The World Cup will be staged with satisfactory security, transport, stadiums and telecommunication standards, based on what our country is able to offer.”