Rio’s iconic Maracanã closes for World Cup overhaul

The club that calls the Estádio do Maracanã home tried to keep it open, but the famed Rio de Janeiro stadium that played host to the 1950 World Cup final has shut its doors for the next two years while it’s upgraded as the finals venue for the 2014 World Cup.

The Maracanã once could boast of being the largest stadium in the world, holding an estimated 200,000 spectators for the 1950 final, which Brazil lost to Uruguay. Among the mourners was the father of Pelé, who as a young boy promised his father he would help win a World Cup for Brazil. Eight years later, at the age of 17, he did on the first of three occasions, and toward the end of his legendary career, Pelé scored his 1000th goal at the Maracanã.

The tragic deaths of three spectators due to an upper deck collapse in 1992 led to the capacity of the Maracanã being reduced substantially. A recent renovation sliced the limit to 82,000, and the new capacity will be smaller still — around 76,000 — and is to include a retractable roof.

The project is six months late getting started and will cost a bundle — an estimated $400 million. But if the refurbishment can maintain the magical atmosphere of a typical Fluminense vs. Flamengo match, then perhaps it will be more than worth it.

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