By any name, Maracanã Stadium has a rich history

Maracanã stadium or officially known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho / image by Arthur Boppré

The stadium, once the world's largest, was renamed in 1966 after a Brazilian journalist. But Rio's locals, or "Cariocas," still lovingly call it Maracanã

Rio de Janeiro’s famed Maracanã Stadium, surrounded by neighborhoods where ABB equipment helps supply electricity to the city’s 6.3 million residents, is the spiritual home of Brazilian football. It’s been the scene of some of Brazil’s most-glorious sporting moments, but also its greatest tragedy: the 1950 World Cup final loss to Uruguay.

Now, almost exactly 64 years later, capacity crowds are again expected for seven matches to be played here during the 2014 FIFA World Cup that began this week.

To make sure visitors and locals alike have power, ABB has worked with the local utility to retrofit 25 substations in the third-largest South American metropolis, to boost the reliability of its electricity network. Also coming to a neighborhood near Maracanã soon: A new, $30 million substation, filled with ABB’s gas-insulated switchgear, to help illuminate events at the venue during the 2016 Olympic Games and beyond for residents living around the stadium.

But did you know Maracanã, built for the 1950 World Cup where Brazil’s collective heart would be broken, isn’t the stadium’s official name? It’s actually Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho – Journalist Mario Filho Stadium.

Filho, it turns out, was one of Brazil’s most-respected 20th-century sports journalists and author of a 1947 book that many people in Brazil still see as a seminal work on race and soccer.

By some accounts, Filho’s sports writing helped deepen understanding of the key role that Brazil’s football-playing African descendants played in developing the nation’s joyful approach to the game, the “joga bonito” we’ve come to associate with players from the past like Pelé or Ronaldo – and players of today like Neymar, who is just now trying to win Brazil its record sixth World Cup title.

“Football as social history”

“This was football as social history,” according to the book “Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup,” in a passage about Filho’s contributions.

With his columns for Jorno dos Sports, Filho also was an enthusiastic advocate for building Maracanã Stadium before the 1950 World Cup. At completion, it could accommodate some 200,000 spectators and was the biggest stadium in the world at the time.

This was no mere construction project, Filho wrote, it was “the battle for the stadium.”

Filho died in 1966 of a heart attack, prompting Rio to rename Maracanã in his honor. Since then, the arena has witnessed some of Brazil’s greatest football moments. It was here, for instance, on this hallowed ground, where Pelé scored his 1,000th career goal in 1969.

Well beyond the streets in the shadow of Rio’s holy football shrine, ABB has been deeply involved elsewhere in Brazil’s infrastructure buildup to the 2014 World Cup.

“Gigante da Boa Vista” – and ABB

At Beira-Rio Stadium, our transformers help deliver reliable, environmentally-friendly electricity for spectators. Further north on the country’s famous Atlantic coastline, at Estádio Joaquim Américo Guimarães in Curitiba, ABB’s medium-voltage panels help control and protect the 43,000-seat stadium’s electrical equipment, such as its lighting and power infrastructure.

In Recife, ABB surge arresters and medium-voltage surge arresters protect Arena Pernambuco’s electrical equipment and prevent the power grid from being overloaded.

And inside the Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo in Fortaleza –the “Gigante da Boa Vista” – ABB contactors will be used to switch power circuits, controlling lighting, heating and other electrical loads.

Much the same as Mario Filho Stadium – OK, even Rio’s boisterous Cariocas still call the place Maracanã – every one of these stadiums is blessed with its own rich history. And when the 32 teams that qualified for the tournament continue play over the next four weeks, ABB will be quietly helping keep the lights on as players write the next chapters.

Check out this interactive map to learn more about how ABB technology is helping power the 2014 edition of the world’s biggest sporting event.



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About the author

John-Philip Miller

I’m the senior editor in ABB’s group corporate communications team, in Zurich. For most of my career I’ve been a reporter, at Bloomberg News in Zurich and then for the last 10 years at The Associated Press in Idaho.
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