By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the FIFA World Cup under three weeks away from starting, all logistical problems with the official stadiums must be ironed out as smoothly and quickly as possible. The Estádio Beira-Rio, in Porto Alegre, despite having made significant progress in previous month still was on the receiving end of criticism from FIFA general secretary Jerôme Valcke recently.
Of the twelve host cities for the FIFA tournament, Porto Alegre is one of the most delayed. The stadium has been handed five games for the World Cup, but has run the risk of complete omission over recent months.
While it may not be the most involved of cities during the World Cup, Porto Alegre is nevertheless host to two of the biggest clubs in domestic Brazilian football (soccer). Internacional and Grêmio both hail from the Rio Grande do Sul capital, and it is the former’s traditional home that has been given a revamp ahead of the World Cup.
One thing for certain is that Brazil will not be playing at the Beira-Rio. But two former world champions will be gracing the turf in Porto Alegre.
1998 World Cup winners France take on Honduras on June 15th, Australia play Netherlands on June 18th, and South Korea and Nigeria meet on June 22nd before two-time world champions Argentina arrive to play Nigeria on June 25th. To conclude the action, a second round match will take place on June 30th. The winners of Group G will meet the runners-up in Group H.
Mark Lassise, an American living in Rio who hosts and writes the Olhar Estrangeiro television series seen on SporTV every Thursday, has been visiting the twelve host cities and found an unfinished Beira-Rio on his last visit. “The Estádio Beira-Rio was still under construction when I arrived for my tour of the stadium,” he said.
“At the time I was there in February, there was a swirl of controversy about preparation. There was a ton of work left to but and apparently now three months later things have worked out satisfactorily.”
Lassise has however been to the brand new Arena Grêmio, home of Internacional’s bitter rivals Grêmio, which is also in Porto Alegre. “If Beira-Rio is anything like the new Grêmio stadium… things will be rocking during the World Cup,” he states.
For those wanting to sample a little of Gaúcho (how people from state Rio Grande do Sul are colloquially known) life, Lassise recommends a traditional churrasco (barbecue). “Treat yourself to a Gaúcho churrasco, and use taxis to get around town,” he advises.
In addition to the World Cup, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A club Internacional will be moving back into their traditional home once the World Cup party has disbanded. The club sit in eighth place in the early season table, having collected twelve points from the opening seven rounds.
The stadium has undergone a huge modernization program as part of its World Cup makeover. The Beira-Rio complex now includes space for car parking, new training pitches, and a restructuring of the lower tier ring.