By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following a 2010 series detailing the 2014 World Cup host cities in Brazil, it is time again to review the progress in Porto Alegre, the capital of southern state Rio Grande do Sul. One of Brazil’s most popular team’s stadium, Internacional’s Beira-Rio Stadium is receiving a complete make-over but at the time of writing it is only twenty percent complete.
The stadium’s capacity will be reduced to 52,000 and the Beira-Rio is set to receive five World Cup matches in 2014, on June 15th, 18th, 22nd, 25th and 30th.
In March the building works recommenced after a lengthy stand-off between Internacional and constructors Andrade Gutierrez that started in 2011. Now after losing so much time the hope of having the stadium ready for kick-off has been cast into doubt.
“Will the World Cup be in the Beira-Rio? I don’t know. I have my doubts,” Porto Alegre governor Tarso Genro said.
Should the stadium fail to meet building deadlines, Inter fans proud at having their stadium host World Cup matches will be forced to face the unthinkable. FIFA will use arch-rival Grêmio’s Olimpico Stadium instead.
Building works began back in 2010 and good progress was made until the parties reached an impasse. Foundations for a roof to be placed on top of the giant bowl structure are already in place, as are improved drainage works.
Situated in the deep south of Brazil, Porto Alegre sees a climate far more similar to Western Europe than Rio de Janeiro. As such, rain fall is far more frequent and the city cannot run the risk of seeing matches postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
One quarter of the reconstruction work to the lower ring of seating, considered basic preliminary work, is also complete. Then in March 2011, the thus far perfect planning began to go awry.
After meeting with various construction firms, Minas Gerais builders Andrade Gutierrez were chosen to perform the task of overhaul and renovation of the Beira-Rio. But what followed was twelve tedious and ulimately wasted months of negotiation.
During this period, building work stood at a complete standstill. Inter fans began to grow restless as there appeared no end in sight.
The situation became so desperate it took the intervention of president Dilma Rousseff to get the ball rolling once again. Coupled with pressure from FIFA, world football’s governing body, work has restarted on the Beira-Rio without delay over the past five months.
Already Gaúchos (as people hailing from Rio Grande do Sul are known) are suffering the consequences of the serious delays the scheme has already suffered. Porto Alegre was not chosen as one of the host cities for next year’s Confederations Cup, FIFA’s test tournament for the main event the following year.
Andrade Gutierrez have refused to make guarantees that the work will be finished on time, with an original scheduled completion date of December 2012 set. What with the controversy of 2011, a December 2013 date is now more likely.
In the midst of the stand-off, Grêmio’s Olimpico Stadium began to undergo modernization as well. Out of fear that Porto Alegre may miss out on the Copa altogether, the municipal government began to think about a stadium swap. As yet, no official word has been made on the subject but more delays to the Beira-Rio renovation project could see a venue change become a genuine consideration.