A Brief History of Brazil's Most Treasured World Cup Stadium

Estádio do Maracanã, unlike some other stadiums around Brazil, is currently problem-free. But that wasn't always the case. 

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Érica Ramalho/Governo do Rio de Janeiro

The Estádio do Maracanã, free from the construction delays in São Paulo and deplorable field conditions in Manaus, is one of the five Brazilian stadiums that was renovated in time for the 2014 World Cup. On Sunday, it hosted its first match of the FIFA tournament, (Argentina defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1), and it'll host the most (seven) matches of any of the 12 stadiums in use, including the championship game.

The last World Cup final at the Maracanã, held in 1950, still haunts Brazilian soccer fans to this day. With 199,854 in attendance and only a draw needed to win the tournament, Brazil's national team lost unexpectedly to Uruguay; an event remembered as the "Maracanazo."

While the stadium is comfortably ready for this year's World Cup, it has seen its share of problems over the years.

After political infighting over the cost and the location of a new stadium, construction started on the Maracanã in August 1948. By June, 1950, the start of that year's World Cup, it was still a work zone.

Despite its yet-to-be finished bathrooms and press areas, FIFA had little choice but to give the stadium its blessing for the tournament. Only in 1965 was the stadium officially complete.

In 1992, an upper stand collapsed, killing three people and injuring 50. But after years of hosting events like a Frank Sinatra concert, a Papal visit and the match where Pele scored his 1,000th career goal, the building was classified as a national landmark in 1998.

Estádio do Maracanã in 2003. (Wikimedia Commons/Peter and Jackie Main)
Maracanã after last year's renovation. (Governo do Rio de Janeiro)

Last year, its most recent renovation effort barely finished in time for the 2013 Confederations Cup. With workers scrambling to get the stadium ready, a friendly match just before the tournament last June was originally called off due to safety concerns. But after an appeal by Rio de Janeiro's city government, the game ended up being played as scheduled

Now, Maracanã seats only 73,531, but it remains the country's largest soccer stadium. Visually, it's as good as new.

The original, two-tier seating bowl is gone, replaced with a one-tier design. Combined with the green grass on the pitch, the yellow, blue, and white that speckle Maracanã's new seats reflect the flag of Brazil. Designed by the German firm Schlaich Bergermann und Partner (sbp), Maracanã is now topped off with a new, white, Teflon roof that covers 95 percent of the stadium's seating area. 

On top of a heavy World Cup schedule, Estádio do Maracanã will be hosting the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. With a new look, Brazil's most historic stadium should have plenty more history in front of it.

 

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