Lifestyle & Belief

Rio's Maracanã stadium reopens after renovations for World Cup test


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


Clive Brunskill

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Rio's famous Maracanã stadium reopens Saturday after nearly three years of renovations to host a match that will be its first test ahead of June's Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup.

The exhibition match will be between teams of some of soccer's biggest stars of the past and present — captained by Ronaldo and Bebeto — and will be watched by around 30,000 super fans, including President Dilma Rousseff and 21,000 workers involved in the renovations, as well as their relatives.

A second test match is scheduled for May 15 with 50 percent capacity of the 78,838-seat sporting complex, to be followed by the official inauguration on June 2 in a Brazil-England friendly.

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"The objective of a test match is to check the teams, facilities and infrastructure so that eventual adjustments can be made to ensure everything runs smoothly when Maracanã is inaugurated," the Rio state government said in a statement.

Known as the "Temple of Football," the stadium, built for the 1950 World Cup, will now be one of the most modern sports venues in Brazil.

Its improvements came amid widespread criticism related to allegations of overspending, protests against the stadium's privatization plans and construction delays.

People protesting the privatization of the stadium staged a new demonstration on Friday, with police using tear gas to keep them at bay.