By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In a surprising move, local news reported late Wednesday, February 22nd, that the multi-national consortium comprised of CSM (Chime Sports Marketing), GL Events and Amsterdam Arenas, one of only two groups in the running to take over management of the iconic Maracanã Stadium, has taken itself out of the running.
Reportedly, the group dropped out due to its inability to agree to certain conditions imposed by current stadium manager, the Maracanã SA consortium, led by embattled company, Odebrecht.
The CSM/GL Events/Amsterdam Arenas exit paves the way for the French company, Lagardère Sports, who remains as the only bidder left to possibly assume the stadium’s management.
The group’s departure comes on the eve of what has become the most anticipated behind-the-scenes football (soccer) decision in Rio de Janeiro, as the Maracanã SA consortium was set to announce this week its decision as to who would take over as stadium manager for the next 33 years.
Earlier this month, both CSM/GL Events/Amsterdam Arenas and Lagardère had their proposals approved by Rio government officials and only awaited Maracanã SA’s final decision. Reports indicated that both groups’ bids were in the range of R$40 to R$60 million.
To further complicate matters, two of Maracanã Stadium’s biggest draws, Rio’s CR Flamengo football club, along with fellow Rio club, Fluminense, had publicly advocated for the CSM/GL Events/Amsterdam Arenas group. Flamengo and Fluminense have partnered with CSM in the past developing various marketing initiatives.
Flamengo President Eduardo Bandeira de Mello has gone so far as hinting recently that both clubs would only return to Maracanã if CSM/GL Events/Amsterdam Arenas won the bidding.
“Flamengo will only establish a partnership with reliable institutions in which it feels safe to make a long-term partnership,” expressed De Mello. “If the CSM/GL/Amsterdam Arenas consortium wins, Flamengo will participate, and Fluminense, as well.”
Now, with that option seemingly off the table, and with all signs pointing to Lagardère taking over, it remains to be seen how Flamengo and Fluminense will respond.
To the dismay of sports fans around the world, Maracanã Stadium, one of the most famous sports venues in the world and the centerpiece of the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, has been abandoned and neglected since the end of 2016.
In January, vandals broke into the stadium and robbed seats, televisions, and even a bust of late journalist Mario Filho, whom the stadium is named after. Only six months after hosting the Rio 2016 Opening and Closing ceremonies, state energy provider, Light, cut off the stadium’s power due to unpaid electric bills totaling over R$3 million.
In mid-January, Rio’s judiciary was forced to intervene, issuing an injunction ordering Maracanã SA to “immediately resume” maintaining and operating the stadium.
The bickering and subsequent neglect of the stadium have infuriated not only fans but even Brazilian soccer legend, Arthur Antunes Coimbra, also known as Zico. Last week, the 63-year-old former Brazil and Flamengo team captain turned to social media to voice his displeasure.
“What you are doing with Maracanã is absurd,” expressed the frustrated football great on Facebook. “I visited the stadium, where I’ve had so many joys and lived some of the best moments of my life, and I came across a scenario of neglect and abandonment.”