Brazil accident exposes soccer stadiums -experts

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BRASILIA, Nov 26 (Reuters) A deadly soccer stadium accident in Brazil over the weekend has exposed grossly inadequate infrastructure in the country that will host the World Cup in 2014.

Fans jumping to celebrate their team's promotion to the second league in the northeastern city of Salvador fell to their deaths on Sunday when part of the stadium collapsed. At least seven people died and 40 were injured among the 60,000 fans packing the stadium.

Critics said today that authorities had ignored warnings about the poor condition of the Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, one of 18 cities bidding to hold matches in the 2014 World Cup.

Five-times World Cup winners Brazil, whose football prowess is a defining character of the vast, multi-racial nation, was chosen as host only last month.

A report this month by the national association of engineering and architecture companies found several structural problems with many stadiums, including Salvador's.

''What we found was worse than what we expected,'' said association head Jose Roberto Bernasconi. ''Many stadiums are in an absolutely deplorable state.'' The report showed that 80 per cent of Brazil's stadiums needed structural repairs, 90 per cent had no access for handicapped people and 95 per cent had poor or terrible sanitary facilities.

Only a few stadiums, including the famous Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, were considered adequate, the report said.

Brazilians are hoping the country can overcome decrepit stadiums and rampant urban violence to stage a successful spectacle in 2014. Currently, no stadiums meet the conditions needed to host a World Cup match.

Salvador, capital of Bahia state, had been planning to build a new stadium and fans of the home team demanded today the Fonte Nova stadium be torn down.

''What happened was a shame ... that stadium should have been torn down long ago but it takes a tragedy for the authorities to act,'' said Daniel Henrique, a 25 year-old student and member of the Bahia team's fan club Bamor.

Built in 1951, the stadium has never had a general overhaul and the seating was last refurbished 37 years ago, local authorities told CBN radio.

LANCE, a leading sports newspaper, also warned in March about serious concerns about the Fonte Nova stadium.

Brazil's top sports tribunal temporarily shut down the stadium after fans invaded the field last October. It lacked minimum security precautions, the tribunal said, according to LANCE.

Reuters AK VP0032

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