From national pride to bus depot - Brasilia stadium

SWC 2014
SWC 2014

Rio de Janeiro - From national pride to bus depot, office block - and very occasional football stadium.

Such is the current fate of the most expensive venue Brazil built for last year's World Cup, authorities admitted Monday.

The National Stadium in the capital Brasilia, also known as the Mane Garrincha in honour of the 1958 and 1962 World Cup-winning winger, hosted seven games last year in last year's tournament.

But since the hosts' third place play-off loss to the Netherlands the lack of a top-flight club in the city means the 72,000-capacity, $900 million venue is marking time as a footballing white elephant.

Local authorities confirmed they were looking to transfer up to 400 local officials from three federal government secretariats to the venue, while dismissing media claims that the ground was also being used as a bus depot after UOL web news portal showed hundreds of buses lined up on the stadium forecourt.

The stadium went three times over its initial budget to become the world's second-costliest soccer ground after London's Wembley Stadium.

Brazilians are already poring over the country's biggest corruption scandal with dozens of politicians facing investigation over a huge kickbacks affair dogging state oil giant Petrobras.

Before that scandal broke a year ago, the cost of staging the World Cup -- around $12 billion in all -- had irked the public to the extent that roughly a million people joined nationwide protests which started on the eve of the Confederations Cup in June 2013 and ran through the World Cup itself.

Officials stressed Brasilia is a "multi-use" venue, and with no sizeable local club, authorities are stretching that definition to the maximum.

"All told, monthly costs for water, lighting, staff and maintenance are around 600,000 reais ($200,000)," a spokeswoman for the local state tourist authority told AFP.

She added only 1.5 million reais had been recouped since the venue opened in May 2013 -- less than 10 percent of maintenance costs to date.

But she insisted buses were not being garaged at the venue.

"They are not staying there overnight. It is not a station. Some city centre buses are merely using it" on their routes.

The spokeswoman said "between 350 and 400" functionaries from three federal state secretariats, including sport, were set to be accommodated in office space at the venue for an estimated annual saving of 10 million reais to state authorities.

A stadium spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed discussions were ongoing to being first division football to the ground in the new season, starting on May 10, as happened on a handful of occasions last season.

In January, Brasilia scrapped plans to host the 2019 World University Games after the city's newly-elected governor Rodrigo Rollemberg said the city was unable to "meet its financial obligation" to host the biennial multi-sport event.

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