RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Lorries and labourers moved into the famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday to start building a field hospital that will host patients carrying the coronavirus.
The facility, built in the car park surrounding the 80,000 capacity stadium, will have 400 beds and be one of eight temporary facilities set up across Rio de Janeiro state to help deal with an expected influx of coronavirus patients.
The Maracana is one of several football stadiums being used across Brazil as the South American nation battles the virus.
The Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo has started building a field hospital on the pitch where Corinthians and Santos often play and the National stadium in Brasilia is being utilized.
Officials said they planned to preserve the Maracana’s turf but will build elsewhere in and around the ground, including on an area that was once home to an athletics track.
The area will host beds plus a logistics center and storage facilities and should be ready in approximately 10 days.
Rio state has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil after Sao Paulo, with 18 dead recorded by the Health Ministry as of Monday.
The Maracana is one of the most famous football stadiums in the world, hosing the World Cup final in 2014 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games two years later.
Many of Brazil’s all-time greats have played there, including Pele, Garrincha, Zico and Socrates.
(Reporting by Sergio Queiroz and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)