Rio government takes back control of Maracana stadium

FILE - This May 13, 2014, file photo, the Maracana stadium behind the Christ the Redeemer statue, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Gov. Wilson Witzel said in a press conference Monday March 18, 2019, that the group running the 78,000-seat Maracana stadium owes the state around dollars 10 million and that Rio de Janeiro's state government will take back control of the crisis-ridden facility. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

Rio de Janeiro's state government will take control of the crisis-ridden Maracana stadium back from its private administrators

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro's state government will take back control of the crisis-ridden Maracana stadium and break the contract with its private administrators.

Gov. Wilson Witzel said Monday that the group running the 78,000-seat facility owes the state around $10 million dating to March 2017.

"The Maracana generates revenue," Witzel said. "It will be run by the state in a partnership with clubs. I don't see any difficulties in that."

Soccer clubs Flamengo and Fluminense, which play at the stadium, both supported the termination of the contract with the former operator, the Consorcio Maracana, led by conglomerate Odebrecht.

Witzel said the move is expected to be completed within 30 days and that the stadium's future could not be attached to a "company that was sentenced."

Odebrecht has had several executives, including its CEO, arrested in the sprawling Operation Car Wash corruption probe. Investigators have determined that companies, including Odebrecht, paid billions of dollars in bribes to politicians to secure contracts and political favors.

The Consorcio Maracana said in a statement that it will comment after reviewing the decision.

Rio's state legislature decided earlier this year to investigate the contract between the state and the administrator.

The stadium's renovation for the 2014 World Cup cost about $350 million to Brazilian taxpayers. It fell into disrepair after the 2016 Summer Olympics amid legal disputes, and in 2017, Consorcio Maracana won a bid to run the stadium with plans to invest around $156 million into it over 35 years.

The Consorcio Maracana was also supposed to pay the Rio government about $1.5 million each year, which Witzel said never materialized.

The historic arena, which hosted two World Cup finals, will be the site of the Copa America final on July 7.

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