Rio’s mayor announced this week the indefinite closing of the Estadio Joao Havelange, popularly known as the Engenhao. The stadium was inaugurated in 2007 for the Pan American games and has been used regularly since then for football (soccer for Americans) and concerts. After only 6 years of use, the stadium appears much older and run down. The main problem is that the roof could collapse given the right combination of wind and temperatures. As things tend to fall down and kill people in Brazil, witness the hillsides in the rains and the collapsing building in downtown Rio. Mayor Paes’ decision, while not popular, is most certainly correct and prudent.
The international press, as it is wont to do, is reporting this as a major embarrassment to the local Olympic Committee, the city and the country as a whole. The Brazilian press, on the other hand, is pretty much taking this in stride. There are reports that it could be fixed in a matter of months. There are comments that we still have over 3 years to the games, so no big deal. In the meantime, the public sector and Clube Botafogo de Futbol e Regatas, (literally a rowing club morphed into a football team) are left holding the bag. After the first construction company dropped out alleging it could not finish the project in time, the Odebrecht Consortium took over but demanded it could be held responsible for project defects such as the problems with the roof that now have caused the closure. So the public sector, read City of Rio, will pay the duck (pagar o pato, as we say in Portuguese.) Botafogo is on the hook for rent and the loss of revenue since the stadium can not be used.
When the stadium was finished in 2007, there were many complaints about a shoddy finish and cosmetic defects. Now the place could fall down. Some will blame the PT, some will blame the PMDB party, which has run Rio. But in the end, it is just Brazil. Hopefully, and in all likelihood, the thing will get fixed in time for the Olympic Athletic Competition. It may be done as a jeitinho brasileiro but it actually could get done right. The old struggle between the modern and the archaic in the Brazilian context.