Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff was among those present today for the reopening of the stadium that will host next year’s World Cup final, after a three-year renovation program blighted by delays and cost overruns.
The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, one of soccer’s most well-known stadiums, hosted an exhibition match featuring teams captained by former Brazil World Cup winners Ronaldo and Bebeto in front of a reduced 28,000-capacity crowd.
“I’m so happy today,” said Aristides Teles, 59, who sported a replica of the old stadium atop his head and mustache painted yellow and green. “When Brazil plays whichever country in the World Cup here I’m going to celebrate like a winner because i’ll get to see Brazil become champion in the new Maracana.”
The stadium was originally designed for the 1950 World Cup -- the only occasion record five-time world champion Brazil hosted the most-watched sports event -- and will also be used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 summer Olympics.
The almost $500-million renovation cost is among the controversies to have hit the stadium project, which have also included criticism over plans to privatize the site and delays in getting work completed. Construction workers continued work outside the venue yesterday.
The stadium, which is expected to have a capacity of about 80,000 spectators, had been slated to be ready in December.
The opening was delayed after the stadium’s roof had to be rebuilt and a new deadline imposed by organizers of the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up event that starts in June, was set for April 15. That deadline was missed too, meaning the only full-scale match scheduled before the start of the tournament will be a June 2 exhibition game between Brazil’s national team and England.
“We have to trust that there has been sufficient oversight throughout the process and that the roof is not going to fall down,” Chris Gaffney, visiting professor at the Graduate School of Architecture and Urbanism at Brazil’s Universidade Federal Fluminense, said by telephone yesterday.
The Maracana was the setting for the 1950 World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay, where defeat for the hosts is still described as a national tragedy.