Brazil's Maracanã Stadium Re-Opens With Glowing Reviews For Brazil, England Friendly
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).