Brazil's Olympic stadium in Rio shut down over safety fears

Roof problem closes athletics venue amid concerns over Games and World Cup

LAST UPDATED AT 10:23 ON Wed 27 Mar 2013

BRAZIL'S preparations for the 2016 Olympics have been dealt a blow after the stadium that was due to host the athletics events was closed down "indefinitely" because of structural problems with the roof.

The Joao Havelange stadium in Rio, which opened late and over budget in 2007, has been the main football venue in the city while the historic Maracana stadium is renovated ahead of next year's World Cup, but it has now been shut.

"Eduardo Paes, the city's mayor, ordered that the stadium be closed until it was deemed to be safe. His decision was based on three different reports which showed that the structural problems with the roof were dangerous," reported the Daily Telegraph.

Paes said there was a risk to spectators at the 47,000-capacity venue, known locally as the Engenhao, calling it "simply not acceptable".

He warned that those responsible would be held to account. "If it takes a year it will stay closed for a year," he said. "We can't play with something like this."

The stadium, which is located away from the Olympic Park, is scheduled to host the Olympic athletics events, although the opening and closing ceremonies will take place at the Maracana.

The news comes amid concerns that Rio is struggling to prepare for the twin challenges of hosting the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later. The BBC described the closure as an "embarrassment for Brazil", while Metro called it a "major setback".

Earlier this week Reuters reported that the Brazilian government had asked for United Nations for help over procurement issues as it prepares the facilities for the events. It called the move "one of the clearest signs yet that Brazil is running behind on the construction of stadiums and other key infrastructure for upcoming sporting events".

On Monday, The Independent warned that work on the Olympic Park appeared to be lagging. "Expect a sprint finish on a par with Athens," it said.

However, it added: "The Olympic project has not yet caused anything like the levels of alarm within the International Olympic Committee as the World Cup preparations have with Fifa." But that may have changed after today's news. · 

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