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Site Visit: Corinthians Stadium, Sao Paulo.

CW visits the construction site of the stadium in Sao Paulo that will host the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil

Brazil last hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1950, when it suffered a shock defeat to Uruguay in the final. Now the country is preparing to host the event again in 2014. It is not only aiming to reverse its past failures on the field, but hopes that its hosting of the event will set a new benchmark in preparedness and logistics.

CW visited the construction site of the new Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, venue of the opening ceremony, courtesy of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, which is promoting mutual trade relations between Brazil and the UAE. The main contractor on the project is Brazil's largest construction company, Odebrecht, which is also the largest in Latin America.


It already has an office in Abu Dhabi, and while it has closed its Dubai office following the downturn, is eyeing such markets as Qatar and Oman, Odebrecht Infrastructure contracts director Antonio Roberto Gavioli told CW. The contractor is involved in four stadia projects for the 2014 World Cup, including two new builds and one demolition and refurbishment project.

"The company is not only a construction company, it is the biggest

petchem company in South America, and it is also involved in energy and oil. It is the second-biggest private group in Brazil besides the banks. We are involved in construction in 22 countries, from Abu Dhabi to Latin America, the US and Africa," said Gavioli.

Sao Paulo's hopes of hosting the opening game of the 2014 World Cup were dashed when FIFA rejected the 70,000-seater Morumbi Stadium as a potential venue. Brazilian football club Corinthians hammered out a tax-incentive deal with the Sao Paulo city council to build the $449m Corinthians Stadium in the east zone of the city.

This is an ideal location because it is close to the airport as well as being between two metro stations, said Gavioli.

"The Corinthians Paulista Sports Club and Odebrecht entered into initial discussions concerning the stadium project in 2004, with the first agreement between the two parties clinched in 2010, as part of the club's centenary celebrations," said Gavioli.

Construction work commenced at the end of May last year, with completion earmarked for December 2013. "We have more or less completed 30% of the project to date," said Gavioli. At present there are 1,600 workers on-site, which is expected to ramp up to 2,000 at the project's peak. "The whole concrete structure will be completed this year, while 2013 will mainly be installation and fit-out."

Upon arriving at the construction site, CW witnessed an emotional member of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce clutching a handful of the red soil. It is clear that this project is both important and symbolic to Brazil. Gavioli concurs: "Corinthians Stadium will introduce a new concept into football in Brazil.

Spectators tend to arrive 30 minutes before a match and depart soon after. Here it will be different: it is a stadium for the people to arrive at three to four hours prior, relax and enjoy a meal, watch the game and stay a bit longer."

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The fact that it will host the opening match has meant a slew of FIFA requirements and specifications, including the fact that the pitch itself will need to be seeded from scratch.

The capacity of the stadium has also had to be boosted from 48,000 to FIFA's stipulated 65,000 with the installation of temporary seating. A total of six games will be hosted at Corinthians Stadium, including the opening, four regular games and a semi-final.

"I think the schedule is the biggest challenge," civil engineer Felipe Morais Pacifico told CW at the construction site. "It is tight and it is a huge and complex construction project. The numbers are big on every service." This included a million cubic metres of earth movement during site preparation and enabling works.


The site area encompasses 198,000m2, while the total built-up area is 189,000m 2 . A total of 3,100 precast piles and root piles were required for the foundation works alone. The 32,300m 2 steel roof structure will comprise 5,000t of material, while the west building has a glass facade of 6,150m 2 .

In addition, this glass facade is curved, "so every piece of glass has its specific position to be mounted," adding to the complexity. The glass for the facade will be sourced especially from Belgium.

Pacifico said that 100,000m 3 of concrete had been poured to date. "About 70% of the structure is precast concrete," he said. "We tried to do as much as we could in precast elements." There is a precast yard on-site where half of the elements are manufactured, while the rest are brought in from an external facility.

Another factor that had to be included in the planning stage is the fact that construction commenced during Sao Paulo's rainy season. "It is not raining more than we expected, so it has not affected us that much," confirmed Pacifico. "We will be hosting the opening ceremony here. This makes it a bit more complex in terms of all the FIFA standards and requirements."

The stadium was designed by Anibal Coutinho and Antonio Paulo Cordeiro of CDCA. The architects explained in an earlier interview with the media that the roof structure of the Corinthians Stadium is a simple latticework structure, supported on two points and cantilevered in order to remove any pillars from the bleachers area, thereby enhancing the aesthetics of the design and its functionality.

The latticework structure is 3m tall at the edges, reaching 10m high at the two supporting points. Loads are transferred directly to the foundations as a result. The architects said the aim of their design was "a structure that was light in appearance, but not lightweight," as the wind factor was critical. The lack of north and south facades, as these are open, adds to the wind-pressure problems.

"If we had had the two extra facades, we could have utilised a compression ring system, but the costs would have been prohibitive," said the architects.

The roof material itself comprises metallic tiles, with canvas for closure and to boost thermal comfort and acoustics. Brise soleils will be installed on the east facade for ventilation purposes.

These are usually louvered screens placed on a building's external structure to shield the glazing from direct sunlight. Air will flow through the brise soleils and then directed towards the bleachers to enhance the natural cooling effect.

Corinthians Stadium will feature covered parking for 929 vehicles and uncovered parking for a further 1,620 vehicles. It will have 89 suites, 502 restrooms, 59 concession stands, an auditorium, four restaurants and sports bars and a commercial kitchen. The media centre is expected to host 5,000 global journalists during the 2014 World Cup, while the opening ceremony itself will attract 32 heads of state and country representatives.

The design of the stadium has been praised for providing "a distinctive, modern venue", with ample facilities, that is light years ahead of Brazil's existing infrastructure. It is estimated that the new venue will generate $62m a year for Corinthians upon completion, allowing the club to quickly recoup the investment on its construction costs.

"The success of developments such as this would bring domestic soccer in Brazil to commercial maturity, at the very moment a well-run World Cup might be showcasing a country ready for a new international," one commentator said. It has also allowed companies like Odebrecht to play a major role in developing Sao Paulo's infrastructure.

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Stadia on track

Reuters reports that, despite late starts and strikes, work on the 12 stadia being built or renovated for the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil is largely on schedule. Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has declared that some of the stadia will be ready by year end.

However, they are reportedly already three times over budget, and are being built with taxpayers' money despite the initial idea that private-sector funding would be used.

The stadia are also turning out to be much more expensive compared to similar projects elsewhere in the world. At least four, and up to eight, are unlikely to ever turn a profit, and will therefore likely become white elephants.


Overall, the estimated cost of stadiums has more than tripled since Brazil was awarded the tournament in 2007. The current official estimate of $3.67bn is well above the $767m Germany spent on its 12 stadia for the 2006 World Cup, and more than twice the $1.48bn South Africa spent on ten arenas just two years ago.

"I do not understand why a stadium in Brazil needs to cost $274m when there are examples elsewhere in the world with 40,000 or 50,000 seats that cost less than half that," commented Amir Somoggi, sports management consulting director at BDO Brazil, an auditing firm.

The ballooning price tag of the World Cup preparations has been cited as an example of the 'Brazil cost', a mix of high taxes, stifling bureaucracy and crumbling infrastructure that make Brazil a notoriously expensive and difficult place in which to conduct business.

At Corinthians Stadium, for example, the $449m price tag reportedly does not include the construction and removal of the 20,000 additional seats that FIFA requires for the opening game. Odebrecht itself is uncertain as to the final cost.

"Our contract is to build a 48,000-seat stadium and prepare the ground for the additional seating," said engineer Frederico Barbosa. "The cost of that is still being discussed." This means Corinthians Stadium is likely to be the most expensive of the 12 venues for the World Cup.


Green Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is taking a leading role in development projects that help meet local goals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and address climate risks.

The city is working with developers such as Odebrecht Realizacoes Imobiliarias and Tishman Speyer to meet its sustainability targets of constructing energy-efficient buildings, reducing water consumption and slashing traffic congestion and harmful emissions.

Under a programme known as Agua Espraiada Operacao Urbana, the city is driving development of a former industrial area along the Pinheiros River Basin, which is targeted for mixed-use construction. For example, the Rochavera Office Towers, developed by Tishman Speyer and sold to investors in 2010, has four buildings that received LEED certification by the US Green Building Council.


The city of Sao Paulo provides zoning entitlements that will help finance sustainable infrastructure projects, including stormwater management systems.

"These projects have a lock-in effect for decades to come, so it is critical to get them right," said Oswaldo Massambani, a senior adviser from the Urban Development Secretariat of Sao Paulo.

"The public spaces and the integration of residential and commercial structures at Agua Espraiada show what is possible when our city and developers work together to improve the overall urban environment."

Massambani presented the programme to a range of cities, including Beijing, Johannesburg and London at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group workshop on sustainable communities hosted by Melbourne, Australia.

C40 is a network comprising the world's largest cities that delivers many of its programmes in partnership with the Clinton Foundation's Climate Initiative.

"City leaders know that sustainability and economic growth are inexorably linked," commented Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle, who will serve as chairman of a new C40 network dedicated to sustainable urban development.

Corinthians Stadium statistics

Land area: 198,000m 2

Built-up area: 189,000m 2

Foundation (precast and root piles): 3,100

Precast columns: 594

Precast beams: 3,274

Precast slabs: 11,682

Precast stairs: 1,937

Uncovered parking: 1,620 vehicles

Covered parking: 929 vehicles

Suites: 89

Seats: 48,000

Restrooms: 502

Concessions: 59

Elevators: 15

Escalators: 10

Auditorium: 1

Restaurants / sports bars: 4

Commercial kitchen: 1

Glass facade (west building): 6,150m 2

Steel roof structure: 32,300m 2

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Publication:Construction Week
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Apr 12, 2012
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