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Volume 6 No. 212


Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium is finally "back to doing what it does best: hosting the beautiful game," according to Jonathan Watts of the London GUARDIAN. After repeated delays and controversy surrounding a 30-month refurbishment, Brazil's iconic stadium "celebrated its return to the centre of world sport in style" on Sunday with a friendly between Brazil and England that ended in a 2-2 draw. As the first int'l since the upgrade, "attention was inevitably focused as much on the stadium as the match." First impressions suggest that this "will be a fitting home for the rush of sporting mega-events that will be staged here over the next two years," including the 2014 World Cup final and the 2016 Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies. There were "still areas with scaffolding, cables and bolts jutting out from the concrete," but the overall view "was impressive." Sitting under Rio's blue skies framed by the new roof "was like being beneath a marquee." As night fell, "aerial views of the illuminated stadium resembled a giant gas hob." The crowd -- which was 12,000 short of the maximum 78,000 capacity -- "included a who's who of Brazil football greats." The response "was mostly positive" (GUARDIAN, 6/2). The BBC's Phil McNulty reported the game was suspended by court order on Thursday amid safety fears, but the decision "was swiftly overturned," and "bureaucratic failure" blamed for the original move (BBC, 5/31).

LAST MINUTE REPAIRS: In London, Rob Draper wrote "walking around the Maracanã on the eve of the game with the hundreds of builders, electricians and engineers frantically making last minute adjustments told its own story." As did "the freshly poured concrete, filling in what would have been cavernous holes." This was "always going to be an opening with a Latin flavour." The chaos of the eve of the game, "had overnight transformed itself to what might pass as serenity in Brazil." The metros "ran efficiently, the roads were clear, the walkways to the stadium were broad and functional." The truth was that close up and in reality the old Maracanã was "something of a dump, a decrepit and decaying concrete bowl where Brazil hardly ever played and that was rarely full other than for important." The new version "certainly looks impressive, taking its place among the new generation of spaceship-like stadia that now adorn global football tournaments." The question is, "will it remain a special football venue in its new guise or simply be a soul-less, corporate bowl devoid of the passion the people brought to the old place?" (DAILY MAIL, 6/2).

ManU will spend £800,000 ($1.2M) "ripping up the Old Trafford pitch this summer as they convert to a part-synthetic surface," according to the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. The stadium hosted a legends match between ManU and Real Madrid Sunday, and the playing surface "will be dug up on Monday." Pitch specialists Desso, which installed the surface at Wembley, "have been charged with redoing the ground" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 6/1). In London, Mark Ogden reported having been impressed by the success of the Desso surface at Wembley, which "ended the teething troubles at the stadium following three years of problems in the wake of its reopening" in '07, former ManU Manager Alex Ferguson "urged the club to follow the same path as the national stadium." The new pitch will be a fusion of grass and 20 million artificial fibres, which intertwine with the natural grass 20cm beneath the surface to "strengthen the playing area and make it more robust and stable" (TELEGRAPH, 5/31).

StubHub "has signed a partnership" with London's O2 concert and sporting venue that "shows how ticket reselling websites are pushing to overcome legal challenges and vocal opposition from sports bodies and concert promoters," according to Duncan Robinson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. StubHub's deal "is the most high-profile example of a strategy being pursued by the ticket reselling websites." The partnership will include marketing across the venue and full barcode integration between the O2 and StubHub, "vastly reducing the chances of a fan being sold a fake ticket when they buy in the secondary market." While reselling tickets is legal, it often "goes against the terms and conditions of events." Fans can resell tickets for events on websites such as Viagogo and Seatwave -- the main U.K. rivals of StubHub -- at any price they see fit, often "pushing prices for sold out events well above their initial cost." Some sports governing bodies "have taken legal action against ticket reselling websites" (FT, 6/2).

Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg unveiled plans for the construction of a new stadium, a VfL-Center and several new practice fields over the course of the next 12 months. The new stadium at Wolfsburg's Allerpark will be the new home ground for the club's women's team and the men's U23 squad. The constructions are expected to be completed for the start of the '14-15 season. The builder and investor for all construction is the Wolfsburg AG. The company's total investment in the construction will be €26.7M ($34.7M). The stadium alone has a price tag of €14.5M ($18.2M) and construction started on Sunday. The stadium will have a capacity of 5,200, consisting of about 2,000 seats and standing room for 3,200 supporters. VfL Wolfsburg Managing Dir Klaus Allofs said, "We will set a new standard with what we build at the Allerpark. With the construction of the stadium and an interactive adventure world, the VfL-Center, and the additional practice fields, we want, first and foremost, to bring together what belongs together. The Allerpark is our home. That's where the Volkswagen Arena is located and our fan house opened here in 2009. There has always been the wish to close the circle here" (VfL Wolfsburg).

Former Brazil footballer Ronaldo admitted that Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium was "not fully ready for Sunday's Brazil-England friendly." The match marked "the reopening of the iconic venue after almost three years of refurbishment work" costing more than $500M, "double the original budget." Ronaldo: "Maybe work surrounding the stadium will not be finished, but there won't be any problem for the Confederations Cup" (XINHUA, 6/1). ... South Africa's Gauteng provincial government has allocated R10M ($990,000) for the refurbishment of the Bob van Reenen Stadium in Mogale City. This is the same facility that Premier Soccer League Kaizer Chiefs "had earlier earmarked for use as their future home." The project "was later put on hold" (SOWETAN LIVE, 5/31).