RIO DE JANEIRO: It’s back! The Maracana stadium has reopened after a three-year redevelopment programme to take a key role in June’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

Workers who helped with the renovation and their families were treated to an exhibition match between teams of stars past and present organised by old World Cup-winners heroes Ronaldo and Bebeto.  Ronaldo said he thought the stadium looked “amazing” after its $500m make-over.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes were among the 30,000-strong crowd admitted to the stadium which has been delivered four months behind schedule though landscaping and other work remains to be completed.

The Jornal do Brasil said Saturday’s visitors “needed patience to deal with the many problems” such as uneven flooring, flooding in the VIP area, a trapped lift and non-functioning gates and turnstiles.

A  second test planned for the Maracanã will be for 50pc capacity on May 15 and then will come the formal reopening against England on June 2 when the stadium will be at full use.

Maracana will host three matches of the Confederations Cup between June 15-30 – group matches between matches between Mexico and Italy on June 16 then  Spain and Tahiti on June 20 as well as the final 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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