Some 40,000 people came to opening ceremony of Brazil's first World Cup venue yesterday. And it was great – this is the message that went global. But it wasn't all that fun for locals, who were pushed out of the stadium by police forces.
There was a large concert stage on the esplanade surrounding Novo Castelao, there were fireworks lighting up the sky and there were some 40,000 people who came despite no game was yet to be played here.
But opening the first venue for Brazil's 2014 World Cup is almost a historical moment, one worth witnessing. So no wonder that president Dilma Rousseff herself came to do the honour and cut the ribbon. She even did a few passes on the pitch of the reconstructed giant.
Exactly 63,903 seats and 52 skyboxes on two levels, entirely new lower tier and main stand and on top of it all new roof that seems from the inside as if it was levitating above old concrete supports that are still there, but aren't used any more. The roof is now supported externally by a 'crown' of pylons rising above the stadium. Between the pylons cladding of either metal mesh (for open concourses) or glass (for office spaces) is placed. All this cost some R$ 518.6 (€190m, $250m).
And just as the stadium is needed for 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup, its opening was something Brazil needed desperately with constant news of delays spoiling the hosts' image worldwide. In terms of global image it went rather smoothly yesterday with news agencies spreading the word of first opening ceremony. It's hard to find a country today that hasn't got any mention about that in sports media, not only in Europe, but also Asia, Africa and both Americas.
But this kind of success isn't the case for people in Fortaleza itself, it seems. They could see everything first hand and know that pitch was unfit to hold any event and 80% of the stands weren't prepared to host fans at all. In fact, even the 20% opened (upper tier of northern stand) proved to be unprepared...
Mixed messages coming from authorities were saying that it's open for the public and... closed to the public. People flocked the few sections in many thousands, but were then forced out by the police – lack of proper strategy led to very disquieting congestion on staircases. On the stand itself it turned out seats were installed either very hurriedly or improperly as many of them would break off.
After Sunday evening it's hard to say Novo Castelao was opened – only a modest part of it and only for a short period, only to some people. Before first games are played in January, there's still work to be done on the venue.