By Levi Michaels, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following the final match of the Confederations Cup on Sunday, June 30th, ownership of Maracanã Stadium officially passed from the state of Rio de Janeiro to a private consortium formed by Odebrecht, IMX and AEG known as Consórtio Maracanã, SA. The privatization of the popular stadium has not happened without controversy though.
After a series of attempts by the Ministério Publico do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Public Ministry of the State of Rio de Janeiro) and the Tribunal de Justiça do Rio (Justice Council of Rio) to block the privatization efforts, the proposal was approved by the state government on Thursday, May 9th and will allow the consortium to administer over the hallowed stadium for the next 35 years.
Privatization of Maracanã, officially known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, continues to be a point of contention in the public protests that have erupted in Rio de Janeiro and over eighty different cities in Brazil last month.
The deal comes at a financial loss for the state, which paid over R$1.1 billion to renovate Maracanã, and will receive R$181.5 million, paid in 33 yearly installments of R$5.5 million. The winning companies agreed to bear the cost of further construction that will be required to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which the state estimates will cost an additional R$594.1 million.
Taking into account the R$304 million of taxpayer money spent on renovations for the 2007 Pan-American games, this brings the total amount spent by the state on Maracanã to about R$1.4 billion, compared to the R$775.6 million it will have received (or not had to spend) after 35 years.
Future costs include the demolition and eventual reconstruction of a high-performing school, two functioning athletic centers and an indigenous museum.
According to the consortium´s proposal spearheaded by IMX, an entertainment company owned by Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista, removal of the buildings will be required to make room for Olympic facilities and a parking structure.
Protests against demolition efforts are ongoing by community members, many of whom claim that the state accepted the plan without consulting the public.
During the closing ceremony of the Confederations Cup, two dancers were removed from the spectacle after unfurling a banner that read “Imediata anulação da privatização do Maracanã” (Immediate annulment of the privatization of Maracanã). According to a statement by FIFA, the protesters were allowed to leave the stadium on their own and their names were not divulged.
However, for many the sentiment continues that Rio has lost an architectural icon. “This new stadium is no longer Maracanã, it’s a stadium for FIFA,” said Julia Terzi, an English student at UFRJ who works at Maracanã as a receptionist for members of FIFA.
“The real losers will be the public of Rio, who will probably have to pay a fortune to watch their teams play, whereas before they paid the popular price. I only went once to the old stadium, which was after the  renovation, but I can already tell that the vibe there is different now. It´s strange,” describes Terzi.