Rio state government reclaims control of Maracanã

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro has said it will regain control of the crisis-hit Maracanã stadium, stating that its current operators have failed to fulfil their contractual obligations.

The government yesterday (Monday) announced the decision to terminate the contract with Maracanã SA, and its controllers Odebrecht Properties Entretenimiento and Odebrecht, and is set to provide further details behind the decision later today.

Maracanã SA won the 35-year contract in 2017, but the Odebrecht conglomerate has found itself heavily implicated in Brazil’s high-profile Operation Car Wash corruption investigation. The probe has led to the arrest of the company’s chief executive and other senior officials, after determining that Odebrecht, and other companies, paid bribes to politicians to land contracts and political favours.

The contract between the government and Maracanã SA was placed under investigation by Rio’s state legislature earlier this year. The 78,000-seater stadium went under extensive renovations to serve as the centrepiece of Brazil’s 2014 Fifa World Cup, but fell into disrepair following its usage for the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio amid legal disputes.

The government has said Maracanã SA’s contractual failings include a debt of R$38m (€8.83m/$10.02m) to the state. It also pointed to failures in administration and disregard for the maintenance and upkeep of the stadium. With the ruling, the concessionaire Maracanã SA and Odebrecht Properties Entretenimiento and Odebrecht have been barred from participating in public tenders in the state for a period of two years.

The termination of the deal will take effect 30 days from today. Rio Governor Wilson Witzel said: “We are regaining the Maracanã, and this without any detriment to the hosting of football matches, among other events.”

Witzel stated the Maracanã will be managed initially through a “permission-use” model. He said: “We will be developing the permission-use model until we make a new concession that will include a project to revitalise the entire environment.”

Secretary of Sport, Leisure and Youth, Felipe Bornier, said that the government will welcome talks with all interested parties in the Maracanã. He added: “The Maracanã is from the state of Rio de Janeiro, a world heritage site, which we need to redeem. We will elaborate a strategic plan that will respond to the interests of society.”

In December, the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) and local organising committee for the 2019 Copa América confirmed that the Maracanã will host the final of this year’s tournament, along with one quarter final and three group games.