Rio organizers forced to change 2016 rugby venue
SAO PAULO (AP) — Rio Olympic organizers said Thursday they will have to scrap their original plan to stage rugby matches at the Sao Januario Stadium in 2016 because the club in charge of the venue missed the deadline to present its project.
Organizers said they will evaluate the possibility of using the Joao Havelange Stadium — which is due to host the athletics competitions — for the return of rugby to the Olympics for the first time in almost 100 years.
The local committee said "the documents requested were not received by the required deadline" so the local Olympic committee, the IOC and the International Rugby Board will now "undertake a reassessment of the operational plans for the Joao Havelange Stadium."
The IRB said it had been kept informed by the local organizers about the "ongoing discussions regarding the selection of the sports venue" for rugby sevens in 2016.
"The IRB will continue to work alongside Rio 2016 and the IOC to ensure the delivery of outstanding and successful rugby sevens events for teams, fans and the Olympic and rugby families," the board said through a statement released by the Rio committee.
The club, Vasco da Gama, had said it was going to transform its stadium into a new 43,000-seat venue for the sport's first Olympic appearance since the 1924 Games in Paris.
It had been picked as the host for rugby just after Rio won the bid for the 2016 games. The original idea was to renovate and adapt the 25,000-venue for the sport, but Vasco da Gama directors said last week that they had decided to build a bigger arena at the location.
"Vasco da Gama was requested on April 9 to provide detailed plans and all guarantees, including financial, related to the provision of the stadium under the conditions required by the IOC and the IRB for the event by (Wednesday)," the local organizing committee said.
Vasco da Gama President Roberto Dinamite said Tuesday that the club was going to deliver a document confirming its intention to host the rugby competitions, although he did not elaborate at the time. Club chief executive officer Luiz Gomes said last week that the local committee and the rugby federation gave Vasco an 89-page book with demands for the sport's venue.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes had already said the city would improve infrastructure around Sao Januario to guarantee the venue would be ready for the 2016 Games.
Calls to Vasco da Gama, a four-time Brazilian league winner and the 1998 Copa Libertadores champion, were not immediately answered on Thursday.
The Joao Havelange stadium, which is popularly known as Engenhao, was built by the city for the 2007 Pan Am Games.
There have been calls from critics in Brazil for the city to change the stadium's name after Swiss courts earlier this year showed that Havelange, a former FIFA president, received millions of dollars in a World Cup kickback scandal in the 1990s.
Although rugby sevens is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, it does not have many players or followers in Brazil. The 15-man game was played at the 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924 Olympics.
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