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Volume 6 No. 212


Brazil's preparations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics "suffered another setback over the weekend when the Rio de Janeiro derby between Botafogo and Vasco da Gama was called off because the stadium was declared unsafe," according to Tim Vickery of the BBC. João Havelange stadium, known locally as the Engenhao (after the neighborhood), "has been in action for less than six years." Already it is in such poor condition that "there is a risk of the roof blowing off and the stadium has been closed indefinitely." In its short life the stadium "has not exactly proved popular with Rio football fans, and it could weel be the least impressive Olympic athletics venue for some time." There is a "more immediate problem" -- "where will the Rio clubs play their local derbies?" The city's iconic Maracana stadium is still closed for 2014 World Cup work. For the last few years the global media "has been full of reports on the rise of Brazil, the awakened tropical giant taking huge strides forward." More recently "came the backlash and questions are beginning to be asked." Why "isn't Brazil moving as fast as it could? What is holding it back?" The bizarre tale of a collapsing new stadium "seems to symbolise some of the possible explanations" -- shoddy infrastructure, inept government, a lack of faith (frequently justified) in collective solutions. The ever astute Andre Kfouri wrote in Saturday's issue of the sports daily 'Lance!' that "the closure of the Engenhao is the best possible piece of propaganda for the events we are going to receive in the next few years. There is no jingle or slogan. It is Brazil in its pure state" (BBC, 4/1).

The MercedesCup in Stuttgart will become an ATP World Tour grass court tournament beginning in '15. The tournament’s request to move to a grass court event taking place the week following Roland Garros in the lead up to Wimbledon beginning in '15 was approved by the ATP Board of Directors at its recent meetings in Miami. With Wimbledon taking place a week later in the calendar from '15, a three-week gap will be incorporated in the ATP World Tour calendar in between Roland Garros and The Championships, meaning an additional week of tournaments in the lead up to Wimbledon. All England Club CEO Richard Lewis said, "The three-week gap will create a longer grass court season between the French Open and Wimbledon, allowing the players more time to recover from the demands of playing at Roland Garros and then to prepare for The Championships" (ATP). SPIEGEL ONLINE reported German tennis player Tommy Haas "was glad to hear the positive news" ahead of his semifinal match in Miami. Haas said, "It is fantastic that Germany will host two grass tournaments with Stuttgart and Halle starting in 2015. This gives the world's best tennis players an ideal opportunity to prepare for Wimbledon. It is definitely a goal of mine to play on grass in Stuttgart in two years" (SPIEGEL ONLINE, 3/29).

Premier League side West Ham United has released a further set of architectural drawings to show some of the new features of the Olympic Stadium post-conversion. An automated system using drive motors will move all four sides of the lower bowl forward to bring the seats closer to the pitch, thus ensuring that the running track will not be visible when the stadium is in football mode. The designs are such that the seating distances are now comparable with other U.K. stadiums such as the Emirates and Wembley. By way of example they will be 10m closer to the goal line than the Stade De France in Paris, which boasts a similar system. The text behind the two goals offers a suggestion of which two stands will be named after club legends Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking. The gravity stressed design of the roof that enables it, at 84m, to become the largest spanning tensile roof in the world. It will also cover all the seats in the stadium (West Ham United).

St. Petersburg's construction committee said that Russian Premier League side Zenit’s long-delayed football stadium will cost about $1.1B, "slightly less than previous estimates," according to R-SPORT. The latest number "is a speck of good news for the much-maligned project, which has been plagued by a spate of expensive construction mishaps and legal imbroglios since it broke ground" in '06. Earlier this month, building estimates skyrocketed to around $1.3B, "nearly three times the initial projected cost" (R-SPORT, 3/29). The MOSCOW TIMES reported the arena under construction on Krestovsky Island since '06 "was to have been completed" by '08 at a price of 6.9B rubles, but the city added requirements, "including a mechanical roof, retractable playing field and additional seating." The projected cost rose to 23.7B. A new contractor, Transstroi, came on board in '08 and offered to do the work for 13B rubles. But in '11 city authorities announced that construction would cost 33B rubles. St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Marat Oganesyan said last week that "construction would be completed by 2016." In January, the Audit Chamber said that "the facility was 34 percent complete" (MOSCOW TIMES, 4/1).