Olympics-Rio stadium to stay shut for 18 months to repair roof

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 6:33pm EDT

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RIO DE JANEIRO, June 7 (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro's Joao Havelange stadium, scheduled to host the athletics at the 2016 Olympic Games, is to stay shut for 18 months while the roof is repaired, a committee of engineers said on Friday.

The stadium, completed six years ago, was closed in March because of structural damage to the roof in a major embarrassment for Brazilian sporting authorities.

The city government said the roof could present a risk for spectators if the wind reached over 63 kilometres per hour.

The committee, set up by the city, told reporters on Friday that it had found a number of problems with the roof including broken and twisted supports.

"It is a flaw which is related to the way the project was conceived," said Sebastiao Andrade, a professor of engineering at Rio de Janeiro's Catholic University (PUC).

The Joao Havelange stadium was built for the 2007 Panamerican Games and opened just one month before the event after being plagued by delays and cost over-runs.

Rio's organisation of the Panamerican Games, which was branded a success, was a key factor when it won in 2009 the right to stage the Olympics.

The announcement means the stadium will re-open at the end of next year, just 18 months before the start of the Olympics.

It also faces another closure to increase its capacity from 45,000 to 60,000 and bring it into line with International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements.

The stadium, alternatively known as the Engenhao, has been used for soccer but has not proved very popular with fans due to its distance from the city centre. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond) (Reporting by Brian Homewood)

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