Fan deaths highlight Brazil's crumbling stadiums

A stadium collapse that killed seven people highlighted the crumbling state of Brazil's soccer arenas.

updated: November 29, 2007 18:29 IST
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Rio De Janeiro:

A stadium collapse that killed seven people highlighted the crumbling state of Brazil's soccer arenas less than a month after the country was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup, architects said on Monday.

The victims fell 15 meters (49 feet) through a 3-meter (10-foot) wide hole that opened in the concrete stands of the Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, a coastal city of Bahia state. At least 40 people were injured in the accident on Sunday.

"Unhappily, a lot of stadiums have problems, some are in better conditions than others, but I think we could see another collapse like this if something isn't done," said Eduardo de Castro Mello, an architect who helped conduct a survey of soccer stadiums for the national association of engineering and architecture companies.

The survey released on November 1 found that Fonte Nova, built in 1951, was the worst of 29 major soccer stadiums around the country.

It featured pictures of crumbling support beams under the stands and deemed Fonte Nova in a "pitiful state."

The survey was conducted to give authorities an idea of the condition of Brazil's major sports stadiums ahead of the 2014 World Cup. It said several other stadiums were of particular concern.

Sunday's accident came as the third-division game ended and fans of the Bahia soccer team stormed the field to celebrate their team's 0-0 draw with Vila Nova, securing Bahia a place in the second division.

Fans were jumping up and down in glee when the hole opened in the concrete floor of the stands and the victims fell several stories to the pavement.

About 60,000 people were at the stadium, and many didn't realize the section of bleachers had given way as they invaded the field in celebration.

Nilton Vasconcelos, Bahia's secretary of sports, said he feared the accident would hurt the state's chances of hosting the World Cup.

"We were concerned with the structure of the stadium, but nothing pointed to a tragedy of this proportion," he said. "We cannot say that we will come out of this process unscathed. Our image has been tarnished."

Fonte Nova has had renovations over the years but none that dealt with its structural integrity, Vasconcelos said.

On Monday, FIFA issued a statement saying the collapse should not impact on Brazil's hosting of the 2014 Cup.

"The stadium where the tribune collapsed is not among those inspected as part of the bid process for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Neither will this sad occurrence have an impact on the designation of Brazil as host country for this competition," FIFA said.

Federal Sports Minister Orlando Silva de Jesus Junior visited the stadium and said it would likely have to be demolished.

"Fonte Nova was a symbol of Brazilian soccer," Silva de Jesus said, adding that he feared Sunday's game would be its last.

Salvador - a major Brazilian tourism destination - would almost certainly get some of the games of the 2014 tournament.

But Brazil did not include Fonte Nova as a possible venue in its preliminary list of 18 stadiums submitted to FIFA, soccer's governing body.

Instead, Brazil proposed building a new stadium for Salvador in a different location by 2011.

Mello said all but 20 percent of the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, the nation's capital, would have to be demolished and rebuilt.

Brazil, which has won a record five World Cups, hosted the competition once before, in 1950.