It is almost like Brazil World Cup organizers are playing a giant game of hide and seek. “Ready or not, here we come” comes the cry both from youth charging out to find their friends and from World Cup organizers opening a stadium that hasn’t ever hosted a full-stadium test match.
And FIFA generally plans three test matches before rolling into a new venue, let alone the one that will kick off the World Cup and host five tournament games that include one of the semifinals.
Three years was simply not enough time to build a World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo that will stand to host local club matches in years to come. But it has to be. And now Arena de Sao Paulo—or, if you rather, Arena Corinthians, depending on which name you choose—will host Brazil vs. Croatia to start World Cup 2014 on Thursday, June 12.
The latest effort to test—added to the stadium schedule because the May 18 test event had too many unfinished sections for a proper fine-tuning—the roughly 68,000-seat venue in the Itaquerao neighborhood was on June 1, but fire officials didn’t have time to certify two sets of temporary bleachers because they weren’t installed in time, meaning that only about 40,000 fans filled the venue. Reports from inside the stadium on June 1 said not only were there the nearly 30,000 empty seats, but scaffolding was up around the venue and construction materials rested in plain sight.
Due to the incompleteness, concession operators and stadium officials have never moved nearly 70,000 folks through the venue, especially not during a Brazilian national team World Cup game. The wrinkles haven’t been worked out.
And while the stadium’s seats weren’t done in time for June 1—they were cleared on Wednesday, June 4—one construction effort that will for sure have to wait until after the tournament is the completion of the stadium’s roof.
A lack of time has forced the installation of glass rain covers on the metal roof to move to after the World Cup. While a cosmetic and not structural component, it could lead to some wet fans if rain comes during play.
Work started on the largely concrete rectangular World Cup venue in May 2011 that has two main buildings connected by a roof with 48 246-foot-long steel trusses. The original schedule for the $400 million stadium had it finishing in December 2013, but a crane collapse in November 2013 killed two workers and damaged part of the metal exterior of the stands and roof, pushing back the planned opening—at the time—to March 2014.
Before the crane collapse and damage, contractor Odebrecht claimed the stadium was 94 percent built.
Another tragedy struck at the stadium in March, when a worker died while installing the temporary seats. That caused another delay as labor officials investigated the incident.
While officially opened on May 18 for a small test match, the real opening of Arena de Sao Paulo won’t happen until June 12.
Ready or not, here we come.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.