Brazil May Turn $280 Million World Cup Stadium Into Prisoner Centre

A $280 million football stadium built for the World Cup in Brazil next year could eventually be converted into a processing centre for prisoners, reported AFP on Thursday, after a local judge proposed the novel idea to ensure that the newly constructed venue would not become a ‘white elephant’.

The new 44,000-seat stadium in Manaus, on the doorsteps of the Amazon jungle, is set to host four World Cup matches next year; but few see any use for the venue after the tournament, as the city has little football tradition, with no team in either Brazil’s first or second division football league.

Alongside three other new stadiums (in the capital Brasilia, in Cuiaba in the southwest, and in Natal in the northeast), the Manaus stadium has been criticised by both politicians and the public alike to have little community value – despite possessing a hefty price tag. During the Confederations Cup three months ago, a warm-up for the World Cup, millions took to the streets to protest the billions spent on the event in a country which still suffers from poor public services, high taxes and stark social inequality.

Sabino Marques, a judge who chairs a regional prison monitoring group, as such as suggested turning the stadium into a temporary prisoner processing centre, especially as the state government is still struggling to handle overcrowded prisons.

“I can’t see a better site, albeit it on a temporary basis, for housing the detainees in Manaus,” Marques said, as cited by AFP.

“Until the state can solve the problem by building new prisons then these two empty spaces should be used,” he added, in remarks confirmed by court officials.

In May this year, Brazilian Football Confederation President Jose Maria Marin admitted that stadium operators would have to get “creative” in order to avoid finding itself saddled with white elephant stadiums.

Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, who has had to face most of the criticisms, also stressed earlier in the year that the stadiums were built “to host not just football matches but also events and act as commercial spaces” in general.

Rebelo added he was “very confident in the future of these stadiums.”

Brazil is spending an estimated $3.5 billion on stadiums alone, with a total of $13.3 billion for related infrastructure needed to host football’s biggest event.

Although there has been overwhelmingly support for the World Cup returning to the country for the first time since 1950, the soaring cost of hosting the event along with the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, have led many to question the wisdom of such heavy public spending.

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