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Double-Wide World Cup Seats Available to 6-Foot, 221-Pound Fans

World Cup Seat for Obese at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro
To qualify for one of the special wide seats, supporters must submit a medical certificate to prove they have a body mass index of 30 or more, as recognized by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and World Health Organization. Photographer: Tariq Panja/Bloomberg

Some of the double-wide seats that Brazilian law guarantees for obese World Cup fans are being occupied by people who don’t need that much extra space, and FIFA said it can’t do anything to prevent that from happening.

Soccer’s governing body said it is using World Health Organization and official Brazil Ministry of Health guidelines on who can be classified as obese. Those with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher can purchase a special-needs ticket at half price and get one of the special seats. Someone who is 6 feet tall and weighs 221 pounds (1.8 meters, 100 kilograms) would qualify.

“There are cases where a person doesn’t look obese but meets the guidelines,” Federico Addiechi, head of corporate hospitality, said after a briefing yesterday at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, where the World Cup’s July 13 final will be held. “We cannot decide you are not obese if the law says you are obese.”

A BMI of 30 represents Level 1 obesity under WHO’s guidelines, and would fit many Brazilians. Almost half of Brazil’s population is overweight, according to a study by Brazil’s government. It also found the percentage of obese people in the country rose to 16 percent in 2011 from 11 percent in 2006.

Random Check

In addition to the obese, others who are entitled to the special needs discount include wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. FIFA made about 20,000 special-needs tickets available for the 64-match event. About 1,400 remain available.

FIFA’s Addiechi said organizers perform a random check to confirm whether fans who bought special-needs tickets meet the criteria. Every ticket also allows a companion to attend at no cost.

It would be impossible to have a completely fool-proof system of detecting impostors, Addiechi said.

“This was a long debate when we were discussing the ticketing system and how we were going to implement this proof of disability,” he said. “The decision was to have a light proof of disability system in order to be able to have easy access.”

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