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Brasilien Olympische Spiele Rio 2016 21 08 Abschlussfeier
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Y. Chiba

World Cup stadiums in Odebrecht scandal

April 15, 2017

The corruption involving Brazil's largest constructor has spread into the sports world. Nearly 100 politicians are currently under investigation in connection with the ongoing scandal.


Recently unsealed plea bargain testimony from construction company Odebrecht suggested that there were financial irregularities at at least six of the stadiums used during the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brazil's top court published records indicating there were financial irregularities at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which hosted the World Cup final, as well as stadiums in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Recife, Fortaleza and Manaus.

For the stadium in Sao Paulo, which was used for the World Cup opening match and a semifinal, Odebrecht executives originally stated it would cost $100 million (94.2 million euros) to build the stadium, but it wound up costing more than $300 million.

Corinthians club, the club that currently uses the stadium in Sao Paulo, said in a statement on Friday it will investigate any irregularities in the stadium's construction.

Fußball WM 2014 Deutschland gegen Argentinien National Team Pokal Fußballmannchschaft Jubel
Germany won the 2014 World Cup in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, one of the stadiums mentioned in the ongoing scandalImage: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Brazilian Supreme Court released testimony according to which at least five Odebrecht managers confirmed that payments were made to have "an unfair advantage associated with work on the Maracana stadium." The Maracana stadium in Rio underwent a massive renovation in the lead-up to the World Cup and the Olympics. A new roof and seating bowl were built inside the world-famous stadium.

The renovations were supposed to cost $200 million, but they were completed at a price of $300 million. An Odebrecht manager said former Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral asked for bribes linked to contracts for the renovations, but did not say how much Cabral might have received. Attorneys for Cabral, who is imprisoned in connection with other corruption cases, denied any wrongdoing.

Some of the stadiums, as well as the Olympic Park and athletes' village, which were also built by Odebrecht, have not been well-used or maintained following the sporting events. Pictures inside the Maracana earlier this year showed the playing field turned brown.

Odebrecht managers made plea deals in the hope of receiving lighter sentences. Their testimonies were broadcast on Brazilian television this week.

"Not surprising"

Brazilians have witnessed their largest construction company, Odebrecht, and their largest oil company, Petrobras, caught in an ever growing corruption scandal commonly known as "Operation Car Wash."

Since 2014, the scandal has engulfed top political officials and executives at both companies. Former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht is currently serving a 19-year sentence in connection with the scandal. Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was linked to the scandal and removed from office in August 2016.

Ricardo Ferreira Freitas of Rio de Janeiro State University, an expert on major sporting events, says it was predictable that the World Cup and Olympics would be involved in the scandal.

"Unfortunately, in the national context of corruption that has been devastating Brazil for so many decades, it is not surprising...these are big projects, and embezzlement is much easier in this kind of situation which involves long projects, lots of people and lots of money," said Freitas.

kbd/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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