SAO PAULO — Construction workers returned today to the stadium that will host the opening match of the World Cup, five days after an accident killed two workers and renewed questions about Brazil’s readiness to hold the soccer tournament.
Small groups of stonemasons, metal workers and others trickled into the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, expressing determination to finish work ahead of the World Cup opener on June 12.
“We are all Brazilians and Brazilians never quit. We’re going to get our work done and the first game of the World Cup will be held here,” said 26-year-old metalworker Americo Barbosa.
Construction company Odebrecht suspended work on the site after a crane collapsed on Wednesday as it was hoisting a 500-ton piece of roofing, killing two workers. The cause of the accident was not yet known, but investigators said they were considering human error, a problem with the crane and the possibility that rain-sodden ground had shifted under the weight.
While the area where the accident occurred remained off-limits, authorities gave the green light for the site’s 1,350 workers to resume work on most of the stadium. However, the Labor Ministry has frozen use of the site’s nine other cranes until Odebrecht shows adequate safety measures are in place.
Ahead of the resumption of work, more than 100 workers gathered early today for a prayer honoring the two victims.
Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have been plagued by delays, cost overruns and constant pressure to move faster. Officials from world football’s governing body, FIFA, have publically scolded Brazilian officials over the problems, and a series of spats have occasionally flared up between the two sides.
Six of 12 World Cup stadiums were delivered for the Confederations Cup, a World Cup run-through, earlier this year, and FIFA is pressing for the six others to be delivered by the end of December.
Although Wednesday’s accident did minimal damage to the Itaquerao, which officials had said was 94 percent finished before the accident, it’s widely assumed the stadium will not meet that deadline.
Resumption of work on the stadium, which is also known as Arena Corinthians, came as FIFA officials began to gather in the coastal Brazilian state of Bahia ahead of Friday’s World Cup draw.