Rio Olympics Considers Extra Soccer Venues Over Turf RiskTariq Panja
The Rio de Janeiro Olympics may feature two more soccer venues because of concern over the ability of fields to cope with multiple games.
Next year’s Olympic soccer competition is slated to take place in Rio, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Brasilia. FIFA is concerned that the four fields won’t be able to withstand early round games, said Carlos Nuzman, chairman of Brazil’s Olympic Committee. Soccer’s Zurich-based governing body wants games to be played at venues used at the World Cup, Nuzman said.
“Can we have one more city? Yes,” Nuzman told reporters at the Olympic organizing committee’s headquarters. “We can have one, two or more cities. This is under discussion with FIFA and the Brazil soccer federation. An important issue is the maintenance of the soccer field.”
Adding World Cup stadiums could be a boost to cities such as Amazon capital Manaus and wetlands destination Cuiaba, which spent millions of dollars on new arenas for last year’s World Cup even though local teams attract a fraction of the seating capacities of the stadiums.
The Olympic soccer tournament will feature 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams, meaning some arenas will have more than a game a day in the preliminary rounds. The competition runs Aug. 3-19,
2016. FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said a final decision on venues would be made next month, and confirmed her organization’s preference for World Cup stadiums.
“If it rains or if there are divots on the field we need time to recover,” Nuzman said. “There is a general understanding that there are risks, so we are trying for one more city, for sure, I don‘t know if two.’’
Rio is expected to host the men’s and women’s semifinals and finals at the Maracana stadium, where last year’s World Cup final was played.
Nuzman said earlier games may be played at the track and field arena named for Joao Havelange, who quit as honorary president of FIFA in 2013 after being named as a recipient of bribes from the body’s former marketing company.
Several cities have expressed an interest in participating in the first Olympics to be staged in South America, Nuzman said.
Brazil spent 8 billion reais ($2.98 billion) building or refurbishing 12 stadiums for the World Cup. Predictions that several wouldn’t be economically sustainable after the monthlong tournament have so far proven accurate.
Brasilia’s Mane Garrincha stadium, the second-most expensive soccer facility after London’s Wembley, hosted 13 club games in 2014. Arena de Amazonia in Manaus, a gateway to the Amazon jungle, has been used for 11 events since the World Cup, including four professional soccer games and three religious concerts. Cuiaba’s 42,000 seats haven’t been filled once since the World Cup.
‘‘Cuiaba and Manaus have World Cup class stadiums so they could be used,” said Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada.
Porto Alegre, Recife, Fortaleza, Natal and Curitiba were the other World Cup host cities.
The International Olympic Committee’s inspection team will start a two-day visit to Rio on Feb. 23.