Maracana back in the running for World Cup

January 27, 2007
By Pedro Fonseca

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The world famous Maracana stadium, initially ruled out as a venue for the 2014 World Cup that Brazil is bidding to host, is back in the running again.

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira, who once suggested the historic but troubled stadium should be imploded, said on Friday he had changed his mind.

His about-turn on using the stadium if Brazil are chosen to host the tournament followed a meeting with Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro state which owns the stadium.

'We had tried several times before now to get some sort of confirmation from the state government that the necessary modifications would be made but that did not happen,' Teixeira told reporters after a lunch with Cabral.

'But for the first time, we've spoken to the government and the government is willing to implant .... a German model,' he added, referring to the reconstruction of Berlin's historic Olympiastadion, used for the 2006 World Cup final.

Brazil and Colombia are the only countries to have put forward bids to host the 2014 World Cup, which is due to take place in South America under FIFA's rotation system.

The hosts will be named in November, although FIFA has said the tournament could go elsewhere if neither bid is up to scratch.

Cabral, who took over as Rio governor at the start of the year, pledged to bring the stadium up to FIFA standards.

'The state government has the responsibility to meet FIFA's demands and I don't see that being a problem,' he said.

Teixeira added that the stadium, which last hosted a full international in 2000 when Bolivia arrived for a World Cup qualifier, would be used for Brazil's first home game in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, starting in September or October.

The Maracana, which opened for the 1950 World Cup, is a monstrous bowl-shaped arena that for many years was the world's largest soccer stadium.

A crowd estimated at over 200,000 watched the decisive match in 1950, when Uruguay pulled off one of the great upsets in World Cup history by beating Brazil 2-1 to win the trophy.

More recently, the stadium has fallen into decline despite a number of reforms.

In 1992 three people were killed and dozens more were injured after a railing collapsed on the upper tier and at least 50 people plunged on to the seats below.

Crowd riots and crushes have become common while spectators occupying seats in the lower tier have complained about being pelted with various liquids thrown from above.

The Maracana's capacity was reduced to 103,000 when it was converted to an all-seater stadium for the 2000 Club World championship which Brazil hosted.

The stadium was closed for almost the whole of 2005 when the pitch was lowered by two metres and again at the end of 2006 for more refurbishment in time for this year's Pan American Games which Rio will host from July 13-29.

The current capacity is 54,000 but this will rise to 96,000 when work is complete.