By Duncan Mackay
December 17 - Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium, which is due to stage the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2014 World Cup final, is to get a $300 million (£175 million) face-lift, the city's Secretary of Sports and Tourism announced today.
The work on the iconic stadium, the largest in the world when it was inaugurated in 1950 for the World Cup, is planned to be completed by December 2012.
Marcia Lins Lins said: "The start of renovation work at the stadium is planned for March 2010 but it will only close completely in September."
The Maracana is classified as an historic monument so the facade will be maintained but a roof will be added to the five-storey oval stadium.
Originally built to hold 200,000, the present capacity will be reduced from 87,000 to 82,000 at the recommendation of FIFA, football's world governing body who are overseeing preparations for the 2014 World Cup.
Lins said: "Before, stadiums were practically just large pitches but today they are multi-disciplined arenas."
The renovation to the stadium, which will also host the finals of the Olympic football tournament in 2016, includes upgraded changing rooms, a new area for the media, new seats, toilets and restaurants while the northern area of the city has also been earmarked for regeneration.
The stadium, named after the region it is located in, was originally built in only two years after Brazil were awarded the 1950 World Cup, although several aspects were left uncompleted, including the toilet and press facilities.
The attendance for the final game of that tournament was officially 199,854, with the actual attendance estimated to be about 210,000.
Due to the schedule for that World Cup, there was no final match that year.
But Brazil faced Uruguay in the last match of the tournament, needing only a draw to finish top of the group, but Uruguay won the game 2-1, shocking the thousands who attended the game.
It is an event that remains deeply burnt into the psyche of many Brazilians.
The stadium was finally fully completed in 1965 and has continued to be the scene for several historic football moments, including the 1,000th goal of Pele's career in 1969, and some non-football ones, such as Paul McCartney playing to a world record crowd of 180,000 there in 1990.
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