SAO PAULO Corinthians have taken formal control of the stadium that will host the opening match of this year's World Cup but officials said on Tuesday there is still a lot of work to do before the arena is ready to host big games.
"I am enchanted, I am in love, there's emotion, passion, dreams," Corinthians president Mario Gobbi said at the official handing over ceremony. "I need to pinch myself to see if all this is for real."
Gobbi, however, called the delivery by construction firm Odebrecht "a symbolic act" and said there "is still a way to go and we need to work together."
The Arena Corinthians was supposed to have been finished last December but the already slow construction work was delayed further by two separate accidents in which three workers were killed.
The former Corinthians president overseeing the project said work was so late there would likely be time for one match there before Brazil's World Cup opener against Croatia on June 12.
Corinthians are scheduled to play Figueirense in a Brazilian first division match there on May 17 although they could also face Atletico Paranaense on May 21 if soccer's world governing body FIFA asks for a second test event, said Andres Sanchez.
He said other smaller events featuring children's teams and matches between construction workers would also take place to give the authorities a chance to run tests in front of thousands of specially invited fans.
The stadium, scheduled to host six games at the tournament including a semi-final, will cost almost one billion reals (268.00 million pounds) and come in at 14 to 18 percent over budget, Sanchez added, making it among the most expensive of the 12 World Cup grounds.
It was designed to seat 48,000 fans but another 20,000 temporary seats are being installed for the World Cup.
The makeshift grandstands behind both goals are still under construction and there is still work to be done inside the stadium, including finishing the luxurious VIP areas where 150 dignitaries will be seated.
"Don't worry, nothing is going to fall on anyone's heads," the always combative Sanchez assured reporters.
One of the biggest concerns now is the area around the stadium and the access roads, many of which are still uncompleted. Large parts of the surrounding area are filled with mechanical diggers, rubble and labourers.
The city's vice mayor promised that those areas, some of which were started more than a decade ago, would be finished by the end of May.
Workers must also provide the temporary installations needed to handle the large number of dignitaries, sponsors, security and media attending matches at the stadium.
Even though there are 58 days until the opening match, Corinthians and FIFA have still not said who will pay for the installations or when work will begin on installing them.
($1 = 2.2313 Brazilian Reals)
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)