RIO DE JANEIRO: After all the worries, Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium reopens overnight with the first test match ahead of its role in the Confederations Cup in June and the World Cup finals next year.

Two years  eight months of redevelopment will be signed off with a friendly match between friends of former World Cup-winners Ronaldo and Bebeto who are both colleagues now on the World Cup’s local organising committee.

Maracana - matchfit for the big occasions again / FIFA

President Dilma Rousseff, Minister of Sport Aldo Rebelo, Rio de Janeiro State Governor Sergio Cabral and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes are expected to be among the restricted 23,500 crowd – less than a third of the total 78,838 capacity. The rest will be the 8,000 stadium building workers plus friends and family.

Some 32 players and former players have been confirmed for the match, among them nine Brazilian national team World Cup winners.

In addition to the two hosts, Ronaldo and Bebeto, 1994 World Cup winners Aldair, Zetti, Jorginho, Mauro Silva and Ricardo Rocha will also play. From Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning team, as well as Ronaldo, Edilson has also confirmed participation.

The second test planned for the Maracanã will be for 50pc capacity on May 15 and then will come the international against England on June 2 when the stadium will be at full use. Maracana will then host three matches of the Confederations Cup between June 15-30.

Maracana will be the stage of two group matches: Mexico and Italy on June 16 and Spain and Tahiti on June 20. The Confederations Cup final will follow on June 30.

Next year Maracanã will become only the second stadium in history to host two World Cup Finals. The first was the Azteca stadium in Mexico, stage of the 1970 and 1986 finals. Maracanã’s  first final was in 1950 when Uruguay beat Brazil. The venue will be the stage of another six World Cup matches: four in the group stage, one in the round of 16, and a quarter-final.

The stadium . . . 

Visitors to Maracanã will see a totally refurbished stadium. From the traditional structure only the façade remains, as it is inscribed in the list of cultural heritage sites by Brazil’s National Artistic and Historical Heritage Institute.

The stadium structure is 124,000  square meters (formerly 112,000 square meters), and the renovation prioritized comfort and safety. Access to the venue’s five levels can be done using 17 elevators, eight of them panoramic, 12 escalators and six ramps.

The four types of seats are in shades of yellow, blue and white. As they are spread out throughout the stadium, the seats provide a moving effect. There will be four big 98 square meter screens.

The venue’s PA system has 78 speakers, divided in 26 sets of threes, all fixed onto the structure that supports the roof.  Eight of these sets of speakers are turned towards the pitch and the others towards the stands.

The VIP area has air conditioned and furnished boxes with private lavatories, 10,000 premium seats reserved in the stands, as well as a lounge and exclusive catering services. The Maracanã has 292 bathrooms and 60 bars and snack bars.

Night events

For night events, 396 2,000-watt reflector lights were installed. For the press, eight TV studios were built on the level of the stands and another four on the same level as the changing rooms.

The grass species used for the pitch is Celebration Bermuda, which has thinner blades and allows the ball to roll faster and without bumps. The size of the pitch was reduced and it is now 105m by 68m. In addition, a new drainage system was built, doubling the outflow capacity.

The four changing rooms, equipped with baths and showers, were raised and are now above pitch level. The players will feel the crowd closer to them.

The stands are more tilted. The first row is 14 meters away from the pitch.

Another innovation is the stadium’s roof. Made up of a structure with prestressed cables, the roof is covered by a transparent, self-cleaning membrane, which allows for uniform lighting conditions, even in the stands’ upper rings.

The new roof also collects rainwater so that it can be reused in bathrooms. This was done to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate requirements awarded to buildings that have a high environmental and energy performance that comply with international standards. The total invested in the Maracanã’s refurbishment was R$ 808.4 million (US$ 403.5 million), of which R$ 400 million (US$ 199.7 million) was from federal financing.

The other stadia

In addition to the Maracanã, another four Confederations Cup stadiums are already being assessed by the Local Organizing Committee: the Castelão in Fortaleza; the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte; the Fonte Nova in Salvador; and the Pernambuco Arena in Recife.  According to the government of the Federal District, the National Stadium in Brasilia, which will be the stage of the Confederations Cup opening match, will be completed on May 18. The other six 2014 World Cup stadia will be finished by the end of 2013.

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