For football fans, Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium is one of the sport’s most important temples in the world. For decades, it was the world’s largest stadium and served as the stage for two World Cup finals. It is the football stadium for the football country. Now, the abandoned facility represents mismanagement and imprudent public spending.
On Tuesday, vandals looted the iconic stadium, taking fire extinguishers, hoses, and TVs, said Rio’s Football Federation. The thieves even took a bronze bust of the late journalist Mario Filho, after whom the stadium was officially named. In fact, this was only the latest episode in a long history of negligence and poor management.
Built for the 1950 World Cup, the stadium underwent a costly renovation for the 2014 edition of the tournament. The modernization of the football temple consumed more than $310 million. But only two years after Germany and Argentina played for the world title, the stadium is in no condition to host a match. The dehydrated grass would be a liability, and roughly 7,000 seats are missing. Furthermore, the stadium administration hasn’t recently paid either its water and electric bills.
Who’s in charge?
Officially, the stadium is under the responsibility of the company Maracanã S.A., which has Odebrecht as a major shareholder. Odebrecht, of course, is grappling with dozens of corruption accusations; its former CEO has been in jail for the last year and a half.
In March 2015, however, Maracanã S.A. passed the stadium’s administration to the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee. In June, the stadium’s archive went to an organization under the state government of Rio de Janeiro. Rio 2016 should have transferred the administration back to Maracanã S.A. in October, but the holding refuses to take it back. The Odebrecht-led consortium accuses Rio 2016 of not turning in the stadium in the same conditions.
Until a legal resolution is found for the dispute, Brazil’s iconic stadium will remain abandoned.
Scandals, many scandals
While Brazil’s Maracanã required modernization for the 2014 World Cup, what happened was appalling. The stadium cost $310 million in public financing, 50 percent above the original budget. Two recent police operations explain why: former Governor Sérgio Cabral allegedly received 5 percent of the contract in bribes. All with the blessing of the State Accounts Court, an audit tribunal to scrutinize public spending. Its judges received 1 percent of the amount.