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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio’s state government has allowed the Olympic stadium João Havelange, better known as Engenhão stadium, to host games of the upcoming Rio state championship, the Campeonato Carioca. The championship is set to start on February 1st and seats in the Botafogo homeground will be released gradually.

The Engenhão will reopen the lower ring of the stands, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Engenhão will reopen the lower ring of the stands, photo by Drowned/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Fans will be able to cheer for their teams in the state championship from the entire lower ring of stands, with a capacity for around 20,000 spectators, which have been freed for February together with the 1,200 places in boxes and the TV and Camera stands. The remaining seats of the total of 45,000 will be released gradually starting in March.

Newly relegated Carioca club Botafogo were happy to receive their homeground back and already held their first training on the turf on Saturday, January 10th. They will host the stadium’s reopening game on February 1st against Boavista.

The club, which lost a lot of money with the closure of the stadium, has also asked Mayor Eduardo Paes to change the stadium’s name into Olympic stadium Nilton Santos, as homage to the club’s wingback and Brazilian national player, who won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. The stadium that belongs to the state of Rio is currently named after Brazilian FIFA president and IOC member João Havelange.

The Engenhão, nicknamed after its surrounding neighborhood Engenho de Dentro and built for the Panamerican Games in 2007, had been closed in March 2013 shortly before the Confederations Cup, after structural problems with the roof had been detected. In the almost two years of its closure repairs have been carried out and the roof structure has been strengthened with 34 metal pillars.

The stadium is set to host the athletics competitions in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio. For this purpose its capacity will be increased to host 60,000 spectators. It is also currently discussed as a site for Olympic football (soccer) games.

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