Rio 2016 athletics venue to be closed until year before Games while urgent repairs carried out

Saturday, 08 June 2013
By Duncan Mackay

Estádio Olímpico João HavelangeJune 8 - Officials in Rio de Janeiro have revealed that the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, which is due to host the athletics during the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, will need a minimum of 18 months of reconstruction work and remain closed until 2015 while the repairs are carried out.

The Stadium was shut in March after an engineer's appraisal showed the venue's roof could collapse due to structural problems if the wind reached more than 63 kilometres per hour. 

Marcos Vidigal, the chief engineer of the consortium that built the Stadium, admitted the roof did not meet "minimum safety standards" in its current state.

"The roof's structure is going to have to be rebuilt from scratch and in a completely different way," Vidigal said.

The Stadium, built for the 2007 Pan American Games, is set to have its capacity increased from 47,000 to 60,000 to host athletics during Rio 2016.

"There is a need to reinforce the roof's structure so the Stadium can be used, taking into consideration the proper requirements of safety," said Sebastiao Andrade, the engineer appointed by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes to carry out a study into the situation.

Estádio Olímpico João Havelange roofIf the wind reaches more than 63 kilometres per hour the then the roof at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange could collapse engineers have warned

Rio 2016 officials claim that they remain confident the repairs will be completed well ahead of the time they will need the Stadium.

"The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee is satisfied that the solution presented by the city of Rio de Janeiro will allow the Olympic Stadium to be ready for the Games which will happen more than three years from now," they said in a statement.

"We are keeping close contact with the International Olympic Committee and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) regarding this subject."

But the situation is nevertheless embarrassing for Brazilian officials, already under fire for delays in preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is due to be staged in the country. 

The Stadium had not been due to be used during the World Cup but had been booked by Italy as a training base for the Confederations Cup, which is due to start on June 15.

They are now trying to find an alternative venue. 

"To close a stadium so soon after it was opened is a tragedy, is a shame," said Alexandre Pinto, Rio Government official in charge of public constructions.

"There were several mistakes in this project."

When it opened in 2007, the Stadium had cost a lot more than was originally budgeted, prompting heavy criticism against local officials at the time.

The final cost was $192 million (£127 million/€150 million).

Essar Gabriel with Carlos Nuzman RioIAAF general secretary Essar Gabriel (right) claimed in April, after holding talks with Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman (left), he had no fears the Stadium would be ready for the Olympics

Flavio D'Alambert, the Stadium's original architect, has claimed that he is not to blame for the situation and his plan was not followed properly. 

Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo took over the venue's administration after the Pan American Games and in 2009 it started using the name "Stadium Rio" for marketing purposes.

Rio authorities have been criticised for refusing to rename the venue after João Havelange, the Brazilian former FIFA President, was accused in a Swiss court case of having received millions of dollars in a World Cup kickback scandal in the 1990s.

He paid a Swiss court about $550,000 (£342,000/€424,000) to end a criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement.

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Related stories
April 2013: IAAF general secretary "confident" about Rio 2016 despite stadium closure
March 2013: Solution to Rio 2016 Olympic Stadium roof problem could take "up to two months" warn engineers
March 2013: Rio 2016 Olympic Stadium closed by Mayor after safety fears
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