Lifestyle & Belief

Rio Olympic stadium closed over roof problems


From fireworks to flags almost as large as the field, Brazilian soccer matches are a riot of noise and passion.


Clive Brunskill

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Rio's Joao Havelange stadium, which was set to host athletics at the 2016 Olympics, has been closed indefinitely because of structural problems with its roof.

The stadium, built only six years ago, was also being used as the city's main soccer venue while the Maracana stadium undergoes renovations for next year's World Cup.

"The stadium will remain closed indefinitely," said Rio mayor Eduardo Paes. "If it takes a year, then it will be closed for a year."

More from GlobalPost: Brazil transport: Mind the gap (PHOTOS)

Paes asked builders if the problem could cause a risk for fans.

"The answer was yes," Paes told reporters during a press conference. "We cannot play around with an issue like this."

Local Olympic organizers tried to play down the problem, saying the Olympics were still years away, but the closure of the stadium is still an embarrassment for Brazil.

The country is building more than a dozen new stadiums ahead of the huge international games, and worries have persisted that they won't be ready in time.

The revamps are also pushing up ticket prices, which some say will hurt attendance among low-earning Brazilians and ultimately suck some of the heart and soul out of the game.

More from GlobalPost: Brazil is building stadiums, but will they come?

The setback means the Joao Havelange stadium will not be ready for use for the Confederations Cup tournament of national soccer teams in June, or possibly the 2014 World Cup either. Authorities have told the Botafogo team that uses the venue to look for alternative locations to play their matches.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said earlier this month "there is no plan B" if any of the stadiums — including Joao Havelange and Maracana — are not ready in time for the Confederations Cup.