BELO HORIZONTE: The redeveloped Mineirao stadium in World Cup host city Belo Horizonte has formally opened up for football again, a further positive signal that Brazil is catching up on its World Cup preparations.

The Mineirao, built originally in 1965, was the second World Cup venue to be delivered last December, a week after the Castelao in northern Fortaleza.

The opening match at the new pride of  Belo Horizonte was a friendly local derby in which Cruzeiro beat Ronaldinho’s Atlético Mineirao 2-1 in the Minas Gerais state championship.

The Mineirao’s £250m renovation has taken three years and the World Cup capacity of the stadium will be 62,000 all-seated compared with the original 150,000, almost all standing.

The Minerao: Old stadium, new look

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.

Among the developments to which local fans will have to adjust is the introduction of numbered seating.

Tiago Lacerda, state secretary for the World Cup welcomed “another milestone” on the road to the Confederations Cup rehearsal in June and World Cup itself next year.

Mindful of recent events in Brazil – the nightclub fire in Santa Maria and a crowd incident at a Libertadores cup tie in Porto Alegre – he said: “It is very important to us that this historic reopening was a peaceful celebration and we have researched and implemented new security measures to ensure that everything ran as smoothly as possible.

“For instance, both of the team’s entrance tunnels onto the pitch were positioned side by side for the first time [in Brazilian football] to signify this new phase of football in Belo Horizonte.”

Emergency planning

The Mineirão hosts six World Cup ties and preparations include plans to train up 20,000 state and city officials and one thousand vounteers in languages  (English and Spanish), tourism, catering, administration and medical emergency planning. The volunteers will also be trained ahead of the by the Brasil Voluntário Programme.

An upgrade of Belo Horizonte’s international airport is expected to be finished by December 2013.

Infraero (responsible for Brazil’s airport infrastructure) has claimed that the capacity at Tancredo Neves International Airport in Belo Horizonte will increase from 10.2m to 16.5m passengers per year by 2014.

By 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Belo Horizonte will have two exclusive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes that will travel into the centre of the city and the BRT stations are already under construction. There will also be approximately 55,000 new beds in the city. Belo Horizonte already has three new hotels in operation and 40 more are under construction, 20 of which are 4 or 5 star hotels.

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