By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The iconic Maracanã stadium has reopened for guided tours after being closed for several years for the huge renovation project in preparation for the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup. Finally, visitors can once again experience what it feels like to walk through the players’ tunnel and step onto the sacred grass.
Four months after its official opening, the guided tours around Rio’s beloved stadium take place from Monday to Saturday every hour between 9AM and 5PM. On match days, the last visit starts four hours before kick-off.
The tour begins on the first level of the stadium in an honorary room with statues of legendary Brazilian football players Zico and Garrincha, the ball Pelé scored his 1000th goal with and the seat that Queen Elizabeth II sat in on her visit to the stadium in 1968.
Continuing to the press room, the VIP stand and the different seats and boxes, the tour offers a feeling of all the different vantage points and angles the fans would get during a game. A ‘Calçada da Fama’ (walk of fame), where ninety players have left their feet imprinted into the pavement, will be added to the visit after the World Cup.
The second half of the tour gives a feeling of how it feels to play at the world-famous Maracanã, taking visitors to the black-seated dressing room where the players’ shirts hang over the correspondingly numbered seats and the warm-up room, where the Brazilian national anthem is played.
Next, visitors get to walk through the players’ tunnel and step onto the sacred Maracanã pitch and enjoy a unique view of the stadium from below, getting a glimpse of what it must feel like to play in front of more than 70,000 people.
The stadium’s reopening earlier this year was a huge event for the city. “On my first visit to the Maracanã seeing the stadium moved me deeply. The colors of the Maracanã represent our flag; the green, yellow and blue show what is best in our country. It’s a very beautiful stadium,” Melissa Coura, a Carioca football fan, told The Rio Times.
The stadium, officially named Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, was originally built to host the World Cup in 1950 but the first game was played shortly before the competition began, between all-star teams from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. With the official attendance at the the infamous final against Uruguay in 1950 a staggering 199,854, the capacity has gradually been reduced to today’s 78,639, but the magic still remains.
What: Maracanã Guided Tour.
Where: Maracanã stadium, Entrance at Portal 2, Avenida Radial Oeste, São Cristóvão.
When: Mon-Sat 9AM – 5PM, on game days last visit starts four hours before kick-off.
Entrance: R$30 full price, R$15 half price.
Tickets: Gate A of the Maracanã or the official website.