Brazil-England friendly back on at Rio's Maracana
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A Brazilian court overruled a judge's order on Thursday cancelling a friendly to be held on Sunday between Brazil and England in Rio's Maracana Stadium, saying safety concerns at the recently renovated facility – built in the 1940s – were unfounded.
The Brazil-England friendly match on Sunday is set to go ahead after a judge overruled a previous court order that had suspended the match on safety grounds.
The Rio de Janeiro state government issued a statement confirming the new ruling just hours after judge Adriana Costa dos Santos had issued an order Thursday saying the match at Rio de Janeiro’s renovated Maracana stadium could not proceed.
The statement said “the match between Brazil and England is confirmed on June 2 with all the safety conditions assured.”
The chaos of the on-again, off-again match raises more red flags about Brazil’s readiness to hold the Confederation Cup – which opens in two weeks – and next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Brazil-England game and the opening of the Confederations Cup two weeks later are being watched closely following a myriad of cost overruns and delays in building stadiums and related infrastructure over recent years.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, has been complaining openly for a more than a year that Brazil is not ready.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was in Brazil earlier this month to check on venues. He’s acknowledged the Confederations Cup will be a maze of unfinished work and admitted that “not all operational arrangements will be 100 percent.” He then warned: “This will be impossible to repeat for the FIFA World Cup.”
“The World Cup, we can’t reduce any requirement,” he added. “On any (other) competition that would be fine, except at the World Cup. The World Cup is 99 percent of the FIFA system. The World Cup has to be perfect. The World Cup is the diamond of FIFA.”
Early in 2012, Valcke angered Brazil officials with a blunt assessment that made international headlines.
The rift was eventually settled, but delays remain in finishing stadiums and a myriad of other infrastructure like airports, roads and hotels for the World Cup. Much of that infrastructure will not be ready for the Confederations Cup.
FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee tried to distance themselves from the problems, saying they were not responsible for organizing the Brazil vs. England match.
Local organizers, however, acknowledged they are using the match to view “operational areas.”
In her initial ruling, Costa dos Santos said she was cancelling all matches in the stadium until local organizers presented the documents showing that the venue is appropriate to host events.
She said the decision was made to guarantee the “safety of fans at the Maracana.”
Prosecutors said that the stadium must remain closed until it is shown there will no safety or health risks to the public attending events at the venue. Prosecutors said they received a police report, saying the stadium presented “safety risks” and added that “dangerous materials” were at the site.
They also argued there were not adequate measures for crowd control at the 79,000-seat venue, which has been renovated several times in recent years with some estimates suggesting $1 billion has been spent.
The government said the perception of problems was due to a “bureaucratic error,” as a report showing that the stadium is safe was not delivered to the proper authorities.
It was not immediately clear what led to the rapid reversal, with the government issuing only a short statement late at night.
The six stadiums being used for the Confederations Cup are in various stages of readiness. Six others that will be used for next year’s World Cup are still being built, and FIFA has demanded they be ready by Dec. 31.
The Maracana is scheduled to host the Confederations Cup final on June 30, and will be the venue for the World Cup final next year. It is also slated to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff this week praised the six Confederations Cup venues, including Maracana.
“Many people did not think we would be able to build these stadiums before the Confederations Cup at the standards required by FIFA,” Rousseff said.
She made reference to what she called the “old-mutt” complex; a sense that Brazil lacked confidence and would fail to meet the challenge.
“But the workers who built these stadiums, the businessmen hired to do these works and all the governments involved have proved that Brazil is able to accept challenges and fulfill promptly commitments undertaken.”
In something of a bad omen, the day that Rousseff spoke a small part of the roof at the stadium in Salvador – a Confederations Cup venue – collapsed under the weight of heavy rainfall. There were no injuries.
The stadium that will be used for track and field at the Olympics was also closed earlier this year because of a faulty roof.
The England squad, which is hoping to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, arrived in Rio on Thursday for the match. They are staying at a hotel on Rio’s Copacabana Beach.