Rio's Maracanã soccer stadium will be closed for the next two years as it undergoes a complete renovation for the 2014 World Cup. It was the world's largest soccer stadium for many years and still holds the attendance record at a World Cup soccer game - slightly more than 170,000 at the 1950 World Cup final.
Brazilians claim there were 200,000 people present at one of the country's greatest national tragedies: a 2 - 1 loss to Uruguay.
Over the last 60 years, Maracanã (official name: Mário Filho) has been more than a soccer stadium. It was there that Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Madonna presented shows. It has also been used for huge religious gatherings. But over the years, for security reasons, its capacity has been reduced and reduced. Nowadays maximum attendance is 85,000.
The Maracanã renovation will cost 600 million reais (US$ 339 million) and, in a city famous for being irreverently opposed to most things, the complaining and controversy has already begun even though tender offers for the work will only be opened on July 5.
Organized soccer team supporters ("torcidas organizadas"), who tend to be lower middle class or lower, along with the usual intellectual backers in federal universities, like Christopher Gaffney, a visiting professor at the Fluminense Federal University, contest the planned changes saying they will make the old "Maraca" more elite and fancy. with inevitably higher ticket prices.
Flávio Martins, a representative of Rio's Torcidas Organizadas, claims the objective is to tame and muzzle the fans. And, in fact, the new stadium will have many more reserved areas (camarotes), along with escalators as well as ramps, and even a roof to protect most spectators.
"There will be less space for cheap seats ("arquibancadas") and many more expensive seats," observes Christopher Gaffney, who turns out to be an American observer of Brazilian soccer stadiums.
The Morumbi soccer stadium in São Paulo (official name: Cícero Pompeu de Toledo) was officially excluded as a possible game site in the 2014 World Cup on June 16 by the Brazilian soccer governing body, the CBF.
There were two problems. Funding guarantees were not presented for stadium modernization and project blueprints were not delivered on time.
Minister of Sports, Orlando Silva, who is in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup, expressed surprise at the decision and called it "...unthinkable not to have games in São Paulo, the biggest city in the country."
He went on to say that the organizations involved would have to find a solution. "It is embarrassing to be here in Africa and have to admit that São Paulo does not have a stadium for games in the 2014 World Cup," declared the minister.
After the Brazilian soccer governing body, CBF, announced that the Morumbi stadium had been excluded from the 2014 World Cup (due to delays in getting on with necessary renovations), there were calls for the city that is known as the Brazilian locomotive to start over from scratch and build a new stadium.
However, state and city authorities quickly stepped in and announced that there will not be any public funding for the construction of a new stadium in the city to host 2014 World Cup games.
In a note it was made clear that city and state officials prefer to spend money on subway lines, improving the highway system and public transportation. However, they added that they continue to believe the city will host some 2014 games.
The CBF says it excluded Morumbi because the owners of the stadium, the São Paulo Futebol Clube, along with the São Paulo City Committee, which is organizing things in the city for 2014, did not present financial guarantees for a stadium modernization project approved by the international soccer governing body, FIFA, which was made public on May 14.
A note from the CBF shows just how much petulance has been in the air as everyone vies for a place in the sun in 2014. "They sent us a sixth project but as it arrived after the deadline we did not even look at it," said the note.
It turns out that the soccer club that owns the stadium has said it will put up 265 million reais (US$ 150 million) to modernize it. But the changes proposed are much more modest than FIFA has called for. Makes one wonder what the other five projects looked like.
This is a nasty domestic dispute. When the dust settles and the bickering is over a satisfactory solution will be found, hopefully. It is hard to imagine a World Cup in Brazil without games in São Paulo.