Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Money Trouble at Rio Maracana

Administrators of Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracanã stadium have fired 75% of the arena’s staff eight months before the 2016 Olympics.

The consortium formed by construction company Odebrecht SA and entertainment group AEG said in a statement late on Monday that 40 people were laid off. 

The stadium, which hosted the 2014 World Cup final, is to be used for up to nine months by Games organizers, who are bringing in their own workers for that period.

Maracanã administrators said the layoffs aim to cut costs while the facility is under Olympic control. Arena tours and maintenance will be carried out by contractors.

The Maracanã, Brazil’s flagship stadium with nearly 79,000 seats, is scheduled to host Olympic soccer matches as well as opening and closing ceremonies.

Ownership of the stadium passed in 2013 to a private consortium formed by Odebrecht, which is now implicated in a massive corruption scheme at the country’s state-run oil company, Petrobras.

The stadium consortium lost 125m reais ($31.2m) in the first two years of business. It is likely to have taken an even bigger hit last year and is in discussions with the Rio de Janeiro state government to renegotiate their contract. 

Aerial view of the Maracana Complex with one year to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, on 5 August 2015.

Administrators said discussions with the Rio state government on a new operating contract are ongoing.

The consortium said that one of the reasons they have lost money is because they were unable to build a retail complex on the site, due to protests in 2013 over attempts to evict an indigenous community from a dilapidated museum complex.

Brazilian media have reported that stadium operations could be returned to the state in 2017.

Electricity was cut off at the stadium where track and field events are to be held, as Rio’s city government and soccer club Botafogo blamed each other for unpaid utility bills.

Brazilian website Globo Esporte said the bills totaled 1m reais ($250,000) and represented two months of missed payments. It reported that electricity has been out at the arena since last week, and water was cut more than a month ago.

A deep recession in Brazil has forced cuts to Olympic preparations as organizers try to slash about $500m in expenditures to keep the operating budget at $1.9bn.

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