Friday, May 06, 2011

Brazil’s Soul, in Form of a Stadium

Generations of Brazilians have grown up in the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, known around the world as the Maracanã. Built for the 1950 World Cup and at the time the largest stadium in the world, it became an instant national landmark, a symbol of Brazil’s soccer-centric culture. The stadium, which is likely to host the 2014 World Cup opener and final, is flanked by hills and favelas, the city’s notoriously poor slums. Far above, from behind the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the distant Maracanã looks like a still birdbath amid the pulsing metropolis.

But that mountaintop view, with an admission cost of $18, is out of reach for most Cariocas, as the locals are known. The view of the field from the standing-room general admission area of the Maracanã, on the other hand, cost just $1.80 not long ago, making it one of the few places Rio’s poor residents could afford to go for world-class entertainment.

Not anymore.

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