By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s fourth largest city, and the capital since 1960, lies in the Central-West region of the country and is famous for the famous “fifty years in five” quip from president Juscelino Kubitschek; his ideal was to make Brazil’s economy grow as much in his five year reign as it had in the past fifty, and he chose Brasilía as the heartbeat of this bold assumption.
Not just a planned city, but a planned capital, Brasilía hosts no fewer than 91 foreign embassies and is listed as a World Heritage site, by UNESCO. No doubt there is more to the city than the unfair criticism of many tourists would perhaps have you believe.
However, when the World Cup hits town, it will be in the midst of the dry season, with temperatures between 25-30 degrees Celsius and a lack of moisture in the air that will make dehydration a major problem; it had not rained there for 93 days at the time of writing.
The Mané Garrincha stadium, named after the legendary Botafogo and Brazil right winger and star of the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning sides, will receive a complete overhaul in preparation for 2014. The stadium’s capacity will leap from 45,200 to 71,000, making it the second biggest in Brazil, behind Rio’s own Maracanã.
The cost of restructuring is estimated at around R$696 million, roughly USD$400 million, making it the most expensive piece of stadium renovation in the country. Like the Arena Pantanal being built in Cuiabá, the project should be completed by late 2012, meaning the city will be ready to host Confederations Cup matches in the summer of 2013.
Brasilía’s footballing history is relatively modest, and the stadium is the current home of Brasiliense Futebol Clube who ply their trade in the second division.
Despite never enjoying great success in Brazil’s top flight, the side have won several titles lower down Brazil’s footballing ladder including the Brasilerão Série C and Série B titles in 2002 and 2004 respectively, and the Campeonato Brasiliense, their state championship, six successive times between 2004 and 2009.
Brazil stars Kaká and Lúcio both hail from the capital, and were snapped up by scouts after playing in local tournaments. With work having begun on the stadium in April and with no delays announced, the renovations seem on time, but there are pressing issues in the city concerning its public transport network.
At present the airport is not connected to the city’s metro system, and the only way into the city center from the airport is by taxi or bus, which can take a long time on the congested streets, especially at rush hour.
In addition, the metro service needs to be extended to cover tourist spots; now, it is mainly used to serve people coming into Brasília from neighboring cities Samambaia, Taguatinga and Ceilandia, but with the hundreds of thousands of people set to descend on Brasilía, a more extensive network will be essential.
When World Cup matches are not being played, there is plenty to keep sightseers entertained. Lake Paranoá is a must see; a mammoth artificial lake constructed to make more water available to the region (unlike previous capital cities Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, Brasilía is thousands of miles from the coast).
The modern Juscelino Kubitschek bridge that spans the water, with a walkway for both pedestrians and cyclists, is also impressive, as is Oscar Niemayer’s stunning architecture that will also capture the imagination of the visiting hoards throughout the city.