Brazil opens second stadium as fever grows
Brazil's preparations to host the 2014 football World Cup have gathered speed with the opening of the second of the 12 stadiums destined to hold tournament matches.
President Dilma Rousseff formally inaugurated the rebuilt Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte on Friday (Saturday, NZ time), less than a week after cutting the ribbon at the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza.
Tens of thousands of fans are expected to visit Mineirao in the coming days to see a stadium that took almost three years to refurbish at a cost of R$695 million (NZ$406m).
Mineirao is one of Brazil's best-known stadiums and its on time and on budget delivery is a benchmark for the other 10 stadiums under construction.
"This is as good as Wembley, as good as (the Allianz Arena in) Munich, it's up there with the best stadiums in the world," Carlos Alberto Parreira, assistant to Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, told reporters.
"A stadium like this is great news for both players and fans."
The 62,160 capacity Mineirao will host three games during the 2013 Confederations Cup and six during the 2014 World Cup, including one of the semi-finals.
The stadium, which is situated alongside a complex featuring works by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, is nevertheless already causing controversy in Belo Horizonte - home to clubs Atletico-MG and Cruzeiro.
Cruzeiro is Brazil's seventh biggest club in terms of number of fans, and Atletico is 11th, sports consultancy Pluri says. The two teams are due to play the inaugural match at the stadium in February.
However, Atletico fans could be locked out of the game unless the two clubs reach an agreement over tickets.
The match is a home one for Cruzeiro and they are reluctant to give tickets to their rivals, who do not welcome away fans when the two play at Atletico's home stadium, the Independencia.
Some Cruzeiro supporters have also voiced anger at the sharp rise in prices to watch their team in 2013. The cheapest tickets for the ground will cost R$50 next year, up from R$20 this term.
Season ticket prices have also gone up.
The 12 stadiums are scheduled to cost R$6.7 billion, three times more than their original budget. Germany spent R$3.64b to build and refurbish 12 stadiums for the 2006 World Cup and South Africa splashed out R$2.7b reais on 10 arenas just two years ago.
The Brazilian government's own federal accounts court says at least four of the stadiums will be white elephants when the tournament is over.
The vast majority of the cash being spent in Brazil is public money.