BELO HORIZONTE: Two down, 10 to go: Brazil’s state President Dilma Rousseff was there in person again as Belo Horizonte delivered its own World Cup stadium, one week after the Castelão in Fortaleza led the way writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Brazil promised 12 venues the length and depth of a vast country to host the finals in 2014 and Rousseff and Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo have been as relieved as anyone at two signs of proof of progress after so much criticism of preparation speed.
The £250m renovation of the Mineirão stadium has taken almost three years. The stadium is owned by the regional state of Minas Gerais and the original outer shell, built in 1965, was maintained albeit within major redevelopment of the approaches.
The World Cup capacity of the stadium – after significant sections have been ‘taken out’ for media – will be 62,000 all-seated compared with the original 150,000, almost all standing.
Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais in Brazil’s southeast region and was also a host city in 1950 when, famously, the United States scored a 1-0 win over joint favourites England in what remains one of the greatest shocks in tournament history.
The stadium will stage six World Cup matches, including a semi-final, as well as three games at next June’s Confederations Cup.
Rousseff marked the delivery of the stadium – ahead of the final ‘furnishing’ – by unveiling a commemorative plaque.
She said: “Seeing the Mineirão transformed into this beautiful and modern stadium to me is an example of the capability of Brazilians, as well as the people from the state of Minas Gerais, to achieve great things. Six months before the Confederations Cup and 18 months before the World Cup, Brazil is showing the world what we are capable of.”
Rebelo congratulated the state for completing the project, adding: “Minas Gerais has shown its strength, discipline and vocation for greatness by delivering this stadium. What the state of Minas Gerais has achieved in renovating the Mineirão strengthens all of Brazilian football, our clubs and the game.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter sent a video message in which he said he was “looking forward to seeing this stadium packed in June next year.”
Also present were Minas Gerais Governor Antonio Anastasia, Belo Horizonte Mayor Marcio Lacerda as well as Ricardo Trade, ceo of the Brazilian World Cup organising committee (COL).
‘Pay for your ticket in food’
The stadium is open for public viewing until Sunday evening with an estimated 35,000 people expected to visit over the weekend. Visitors can obtain tickets in exchange for 1kg of non-perishable food, which will be donated to social projects within the city.
Tiago Lacerda, State Secretary for 2014 FIFA World Cup, explained: “We wanted to create a celebratory reunion for the people of Belo Horizonte, and Minas Gerais, with their beloved Mineirão stadium as they have waited two and a half years to see the final result. We are confident that they will think it was worth the wait.
“It is a critical moment in our FIFA Confederation Cup and FIFA World Cup journey and we are delighted to host all the authorities and the people to show the city’s transformation and preparations for these major sporting events. We believe that we are a city ready to host the world.”
The stadium’s re-opening Match will see a local derby between Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro on February 3. Their last meeting, at the start of December, ended in a 2-2 draw in the Independencia stadium which was the city’s 1950 World Cup venue.
The clubs own two of Brazil’s most highly-rated training centres which have already been visited by representatives of the national associations of 11 prospective World Cup finalists.
62,000 World Cup capacity (all-seated, all-covered)
90 hospitality boxes
106 quick access turnstiles
2,569 parking spaces (1,530 covered)
65,000 capacity esplanade around the stadium
1,630m² football museum
3,000 media places
7,000m² commercial space
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