Brazil: Top 10 venues

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Joost de Jong from Revista Brasil shares his top 10 Brazilian arenas with readers of MEI.

1 Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro)Of course this one is the jewel in the crown of Brazilian sports passion, if not Brazil as a whole. Inaugurated in 1950 to host that year's FIFA World Cup, the impressive eclipse–formed stadium originally had an almost 200, 000 capacity. After various renovations, it can now hold 95, 000 spectators. Maracanã is the home of the major Rio de Janeiro football teams Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco and Botafogo and over the years has been the scene of numerous vibrant Rio derbies and games involving the Brazilian national team, starring the likes of Zico, Garrincha, Romário, Ronaldo and many others. But it's not only football: world class performers like Frank Sinatra, Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Brazilian muse Ivete Sangalo have put on their shows in what's colloquially known as 'Maraca' (however, the official name is Estádio Mário Filho, after the journalist/writer that greatly contributed to the construction; Maracanã refers to the surrounding neighbourhood). In 2007, the ground was extensively renovated to host the Pan–American Games. During 2010, it will close down again to be redesigned for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics. Located near the stadium, there's the Maracanãzinho (Little Maracanã), a modern indoor sports arena with a 12, 000 capacity. Among other events, it hosts popular indoor football, volleyball and smaller musical shows and events. In 2016 it will be the venue for the Olympic volleyball competitions. 2 Morumbi (São Paulo)One of the most impressive and historic football grounds in Brazil. Home to the São Paulo FC football team, it was inaugurated in 1960, after eight years of construction. Once it held 138, 000 spectators (in 1977), but due to security reforms its capacity was reduced to 72, 000. Rival cities Rio and São Paulo claim that the 2014 FIFA World Cup opening and/or final match will be played at either the Maracanã or Morumbi. However, the Morumbi hasn't been on the FIFA shortlist to date because of a lack of financial security and some infrastructure details that need to be completed. But insiders reckon that that will be solved shortly, because the biggest football show on earth taking place in Brazil without the Morumbi being one of the grounds is simply impossible. Like the Maracanã, the Morumbi is a popular venue for major music acts. Queen, Nirvana, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Madonna, BeyoncÉ, Michael Jackson, Coldplay and U2 have played there over the years. 3 Vila Belmiro (São Paulo)With only a capacity of 20, 000, Vila Belmiro is one of the smaller grounds in the country. And yet it still numbers at three on this–of course arbitrary–list and only for one legendary reason: PelÉ, the greatest footballer the world has ever seen (a statement perhaps just as arbitrary). The Vila Belmiro–named after the surrounding neighourhood–is owned by and the home of the Santos Futebol Clube, the team from which PelÉ emerged in the 1950s and the Vila Belmiro is the ground where 'o Rei' (The King) left many of his historic marks and scored most of his 1, 000 plus goals. With almost 95 years of history (inaugurated in 1916), the stadium is nice and intimate, although not really appropriately adjusted to the modern era. In 1997 the heavily criticized pitch was renovated and a modern drainage system and computer controlled irrigation installed. Since then, the pitch has been praised as being one of the best in the country. 4 Auditãrio Ibirapuera (São Paulo)If PelÉ is the best football player the world has ever seen (at least from a Brazilian perspective), the great Oscar Niemeyer might be the best architect. So to honour the work and life of the 102–year old Niemeyer–the man who, among other great achievements, constructed the capital city Brasilia –this wonderful concert building makes the list at number four. According to the maestro himself, it's one of his works that he likes most, because "it's beautiful and the acoustics are great". The building was completed in 2005, after an assignment first given in 1951. Its design shows typical Niemeyer sharp lines and forms, clear white walls contrasting with flamboyant red. If not for musical reasons, then visit this one just for architectural reasons. 5 Mineirão (Belo Horizonte)The Mineirão stadium (officially named Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto) in Belo Horizonte is the largest football ground in the state of Minas Gerais and the second largest in the country, after the Maracanã in Rio. It's the home of the two top flight teams in Belo Horizonte, AtlÉtico Mineiro and Cruzeiro, while the more modest America (MG) also uses the stadium when its own ground doesn't reach spectator demand. The beautifully situated oval stadium closed down June in 2009 for extensive renovation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The renovation project comprises a multifunctional use of ground and surrounding facilities, with cultural centre, hotel, convention centre and an indoor sports ground. Stadium capacity will be reduced from 75, 000 to 70, 000 after the modernization, which is due to be finished in 2012. 6 Teatro Municipal (São Paulo)Many state capitals or interior cities in Brazil possess fine theatres, mostly historical, colonial style buildings. Teatro Municipal–the São Paulo city theatre–hosted and hosts the biggest names in opera, ballet, classical concerts and choirs. It was built in the early years of the 20th century and forms an impressive part of the city's night skyline. Among the theatre scene Teatro Abril–adopted by the major editorial house Grupo Abril–should also be mentioned. It is one of the most important locations in the country for opera, drama and musicals, and is hosting the Brazilian version of the worldwide blockbuster Cats at the moment. 7 Arena da Baixada (Curitiba)The Arena da Baixada, home of the Curitiba Serie A team Clube AtlÉtico Paranaense, is probably the most modern football stadium in Brazil. It offers almost perfect spectator access and facilities, VIP areas, press stands and working spaces, pitch and modern dressing rooms. The 40, 000 capacity ground, originally built on the location of a former Brazilian army powder depot, will be one of the grounds hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 8 Estadio das Laranjeiras/São Januario (Rio de Janeiro)For real football fans that want to get away from the big grounds, massive crowds and shopping mall like arenas: just pay a romantic visit to one of those two sweet and intimate grounds, filled with amateur atmosphere. The Estadio das Laranjeiras used to be the Fluminense home ground, before the team moved to the Maracanã. Also the first game of the Brazilian national team was played here: against MEI Editor Rachael Church–Sanders' beloved Exeter City on 21 July 1914 (won by the Brazilians 2–0). [Editor's note: The Exeter City players were obviously still recovering from spending some time incarcerated in a Rio jail for swimming in the sea in their undergarments]. Today the Estadio das Laranjeiras is still Fluminense's heart and soul, home of its club offices and a club shop, with the ground used for training and lower team games. It is freely accessible for visits, where fans can watch training and have coffee in the small bar just around the corner. From there they can still smell the grass, football boot wax and the sweat of their old heroes. São Januario is the home ground of Vasco da Gama in Rio, except for the big city derbies. Although it is bigger than the Laranjeiras ground, it has the same old fashioned football ambiance. The chapel inside the stadium is open for visits and gives and impressive look at the religious side of football in Brazil as well. 9 Citibank Hall (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo)Like many popular indoor leisure centres in the big state capitals, the most famous 'casas de show' in Rio and São Paulo have their names sponsored by a company. US banking giant Citibank has given its name to what used to be called the Metropolitan in the high class Rio neighbourhood Barra da Tijuca and the Palace in São Paulo. Together with the Credicard Hall in São Paulo, they comprise the most popular showgrounds in Latin America. With an average 10, 000 capacity, modern infrastructure, easy spectator access, very well food and beverage facilities, state of the art VIP lounges (camarotes), good acoustics, lightning facilities and air–conditioning, they are coveted by national and international stars such as Roberto Carlos, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, David Bowie, Alanis Morissette, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, BB King and Luciano Pavaroti. 10 Copacabana Beach (Rio de Janeiro)Although not a stadium or arena per se, the most famous beach in the world makes a great place for rock and roll too! Sun, sea, sand and the breathtaking view of the Rio skyline make every rock show held here something special. The Rolling Stones gathered over a million fans for their free gig on the beach in front of the famous Palace Hotel four years ago. Rod Stewart even had a crowd that tripled that back in 1994. Brazilian top star Ivete Sangalo celebrated her birthday (27 May 2007) on the beach with one of her best performances ever with a free show in front of over 500, 000 crazy fans, soon followed by her star–colleague Claudia Leite. If it's up to Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes, next in line will be Madonna. "I invited her and she accepted to perform at the 2010/11 New Year's Eve, " Paes Tweeted the world in November 2009. About Joost de JongJoost de Jong writes on Brazil, business and sports. He spends his time between The Netherlands and Brazil and has also lived in Spain. He has published numerous articles in newspapers and magazines, including Algemeen Dagblad, Sport & Strategie, Sport International, Voetbal International and De Zaak (the Netherlands), de Morgen (Belgium), Diário de Natal (Brazil) and Metro International. He is also editor in chief of the coaching magazine NLCoach. For further information on Revista Brasil, visit www. revistabrasil. eu, call +31 6 5468 7502 or e–mail joost@revistabrasil. eu.

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