By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following a 2010 series detailing the World Cup host cities in Brazil, it is time again to review the progress leading up to the 2014 World Cup, with attention moving to the Minas Gerais state capital of Belo Horizonte. The Mineirão Stadium, which hosts local giants Atlético-MG and Cruzeiro, is receiving a complete makeover in time for the FIFA tournament.
When it was first built in 1965 the arena could hold a formidable 130,000 people inside its colossal ring. By the time the 2014 World Cup arrives, that number will have been reduced to a more modest 64,000.
The stadium has a proud history and is no stranger to seeing the Seleção in action. The Brazilian national side has played no fewer than twenty matches in Belo Horizonte, the most recent in 2008, a goalless draw with Argentina in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.
Being a city with a proud football tradition (more so than Cuiabá, Brasília or Fortlaeza), Belo Horizonte will host six World Cup matches in 2014. The Mineirão will see four group stage games, on June 14th, 17th, 21st and 24th, a second round match on the 28th and a semi-final on July 7th.
Building works are estimated at R$665.3 million, money which is coming from the Minas state government, like the Arena Pantanal project in Cuiabá. The entire plan has been carefully planned and divided into three stages.
The aim of the government is to turn the stadium not only into a first rate stage for sporting events, notably football (soccer), but transform the location into a permanent stage for religious, cultural and leisure events. The renovation got underway in early 2010 and should take a little under three years to complete.
From January 25th until June 2010, structural repairs were made to the Mineirão at a cost of R$8.3 million. Stage two was also relatively straightforward and light on the public purse.
From June 26th until December 20th, 2010, parts of the lower ring of the terrace was demolished to make way for modernization, and, in a move similar to that at Fortaleza’s Castelão Stadium, the pitch was lowered 3.4 meters from ground level to give fans an elevated and improved viewing stance.
The final stage is the bulk of both the workload and expense. Having started on December 21, 2010 and scheduled to finish at the end of this year, the task of complete renovation began. This should cost R$654.5 million and is being constructed by building firms Construcap and Egesa Engenharia.
Like the Pantanal, one eye is being kept on green building environmental issues throughout construction. One of the objectives of the Minas Gerais state government is to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Since the project’s commencement, all practices undertaken have been recognized by the LEED body as ecologically correct. Criteria that needs to be met include sustainable location, efficient use of water, energy and materials, and quality of internal atmosphere.
Like the stadiums in Cuiabá, Brasília and Fortlaeza, the Minierão has remained on schedule amidst challenges in other host cities of Brazil. The ground will be used for part of the dress rehearsal during the Confederations Cup next year, and Belo Horizonte should be more than prepared by the time of the main event.