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Shabby Maracana to reopen after dispute

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Rio’s mythic Maracana stadium, fallen into disrepair since taking centre stage at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, is due to reopen next month.

Left abandoned due to a political-legal dispute over upkeep Brazil’s legendary venue will stage its first game this year on March 8.

Brazilian club Flamengo announced Wednesday they are hosting Argentine side San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores.

The proud stadium is in a sorry state – the grass of the pitch is yellowing, the stands are rusting and thieves have stolen seats — symptoms of a legal mess that have left this Rio de Janeiro landmark abandoned.

First opened in 1950, the 79,000-seat Maracana was renovated ahead of the 2014 World Cup for $372 million — twice the initial budget — in a project tainted by corruption allegations.

The stadium glittered last August during the summer Olympics as Rio was the centre of the sporting world’s attention.

But en its electricity has been cut off for months as the various entities involved in running and using the stadium bicker over who should be handling the maintenance.

The private consortium Maracana SA ceded the stadium to the organizers of the Olympic Games for eight months up to October 30 last year.

Maracana SA is owned by Odebrecht, a giant Brazilian firm whose executives have been jailed in a huge corruption scandal also implicating Brazilian politicians.

The Maracana’s owners, the Rio state government, say the consortiuum is responsible for its upkeep with Brazilian justice ordering it to take charge, a decision that has been challenged.

Flamengo say the deal reached with Maracana SA “has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations”.

Two French groups are in the running to take over managing the Maracana – Lagardere and GL Events.

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