By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Three weeks after Brazil’s most famous stadium closed its doors for the foreseeable future, images of how the modernized Maracanã will look after its makeover were released last week. The Empresa Municipal de Obras Públicas do Rio de Janeiro (EMOP), in charge of ensuring the stadium, set to host the FIFA World Cup Final in 2014, is up to scratch, released the photographs to the world’s media, showing the stadium will be returned to the classic design of the 1950 World Cup.
Having gained FIFA’s approval for the plans, EMOP will now delegate the work to a partnership of three construction companies; Andrade Gutierrez, Odebrecht and Delta. The Maracanã begins its transition from old to new with five different shades of gray seating, just as it had when Brazil hosted the world event for the first time in 1950, replacing the blue, green, yellow and white seats it has now.
The idea is to take the stadium back to its origins, and create a more ‘classic’ look for the giant bowl. As well as changing the color scheme, the seats will be moved closer to the pitch, bringing the stadium in line with European greats like Barcelona’s Camp Nou and Manchester’s Old Trafford. Executive boxes and a retracting roof will also be installed.
The works will take two and a half years to complete at a cost of approximately R$705 million, with the Brazilian sports minister Orlando Silva guaranteeing last Tuesday, September 21st, that the stadium will be finished on time. The project should be completed by 31 December 2012, ready to be used for the 2013 Campeonato Carioca, which kicks off in January.
Silva brushed aside criticism that the improvements may not be up to scratch given that the Maracanã was closed for refurbishments just three years ago in preparation for the 2007 Pan American Games. FIFA, world football’s governing body, have said that the R$130 million works that took place then were not up to the required World Cup standard.
“We are working very hard in preparing for the 2014 World Cup. Criticism of our preparations deserve no comment,” Silva said. He went on to note that his working relationship with FIFA’s General Secretary Jerome Valcke was “positive and productive”, despite those derogatory comments.
Yet despite all the positives coming from Silva, the new arena will have some drawbacks. Upon completion, the stadium will have been reduced from its present 86,000 capacity to just under 76,000. The reduction means it will now hold less than half of its official record attendance of 183,341 in 1969 when Brazil beat Paraguay 1-0 in a qualifier for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but few will complain at the new facilities.
When the Maracanã comes to host the final in July 2014, it will become only the second stadium in history to host two World Cup finals, after Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, which held both the 1970 and 1986 matches. After the World Cup, the world famous ground will also stage the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics, and return to being the home ground for the city’s Flamengo and Fluminense top flight clubs.