By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The EMOP (The Public Building Company for the state) confirmed last Thursday, January 10th, that the Maracanã Stadium would face a three month delay. The arena will only be finished at the end of May, less than three weeks before the Confederations Cup kicks off on June 15th.
Previous reports had stated that the world famous sports stage would be delivered on February 28th, making the stadium available for use during the finals of the Campeonato Carioca, the Rio de Janeiro state championship tournament.
Despite the postponement of the project’s completion after over two onerous years of hindrance and escalating costs, Icaro Moreno, the EMOP president, guaranteed that finished article would be of the highest quality. “The Maracanã has a historical value for the city of Rio de Janeiro, for our country and for the world as an icon of Brazilian culture and international soccer.”
“The state government’s job was to approve renovations that would symbolize the country’s capacity to host world-caliber events. From the seats to the lighting, we made it a priority from the start to choose the best equipment and solutions,” he said.
EMOP is the state government body responsible for building, transforming and maintaining public works that serve the betterment of society. As such, they have been heavily involved in the restructuring of the Maracanã Stadium since it closed in September 2010.
At the turn of the year it was estimated that the Maracanã was roughly eighty percent complete. In spite of there only being one fifth of building complete, and some major work still needed to be carried out.
The seating and installation of the roof are still waiting to be done. Yet the most worrying aspect of the setbacks are the threat to the city’s participation in the Confederations Cup.
The tournament’s opening ceremony and match will take place in the nation’s capital, Brasília, but Rio is scheduled to host three games during the tournament. The Maracanã should host Mexico vs Italy, on June 16th, just nineteen days after the stadium is ready.
Spain vs Taiti, on the 20th and then the final on the 30th are also supposed to be played at the Maracanã. In addition, the Brazilian Seleção (national team) are due to play a friendly – the first official game at the reopened Maracanã – against England on June 2nd.
FIFA, world football’s governing body, had originally wanted to run safety checks on the six stadiums due to host the Confederations Cup in mid-April. Now, with the Maracanã not set to be delivered until such a late date, the inaugural exhibition against the English and its participation during the FIFA tournament have been thrown into doubt.
As the most famous stadium in the country and arguably South America, the Maracanã’s exclusion from the competition is unthinkable to Cariocas. Adam Kaliniecki, who works for English Premiership club Arsenal and spends a vast proportion of professional life in Rio shared his concern.
“Cariocas would miss out on a huge chance to watch international standard football, something that hasn’t happened in Rio for years now. Missing out on the Confederations Cup could mean Rio not seeing the Seleção at all. Brazil’s World Cup games are dotted around the country and only a final would mean they played in Rio,” said Kaliniecki.