Football legends help open Rio’s renovated Maracana Stadium
Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium – which will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games, as well as the men's and women's football finals – has been officially re-opened, following extensive renovations.
Former Brazilian football stars Ronaldo and Bebeto – who were part of the bronze medal-winning side at the 1996 Olympic Games – helped inaugurate the redeveloped stadium by playing an exhibition match in front of a crowd of more than 25,000 people, which included many of the construction workers who helped renovate the historic venue.
"It looks amazing," said Ronaldo, who also won the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and 2002. "I'm happy to see the stadium ready again. The Maracana is a symbol of this country."
"I've played at Wembley, Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu and other top stadiums, but this is the greatest venue in football, it's very special," added Bebeto, who also won a silver medal with Brazil at the 1988 Olympic Games, as well as the FIFA World Cup in 1994.
The exhibition match, which was attended by the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, the Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, and the President of the Organising Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, enabled organisers to test the stadium's equipment, facilities and infrastructure so that final adjustments for the full functioning venue can be made.
The Maracana was originally built for the 1950 World Cup and the redeveloped venue will now host matches during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The renovations have seen the venue transformed from a double-deck seating bowl to a single tier stadium, which designers say will give supporters a better view, while the overall capacity has been reduced to 78,000.
A second test event is scheduled for 15 May, when approximately 60 per cent of the stadium's full capacity will be used, while an official inauguration will take place on 2 June with a friendly match between the Brazil and England national teams.