Rio's Olympic stadium closed til '15

SAO PAULO -- The Rio de Janeiro stadium that will be used for track and field at the 2016 Olympics will remain closed until 2015 because of structural problems with its roof.

City authorities said Friday it will take nearly 18 months to fix the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium, known locally as the Engenhao.

The stadium, built for the 2007 Pan American Games, has been closed since March 26 after a study showed there was a risk the roof could collapse when exposed to high wind. There had been no timetable on how long it would take to fix the venue until the city presented its own study Friday.

"There is a need to reinforce the roof's structure so the stadium can be used, taking into consideration the proper requirements of safety," said Sebastiao Andrade, an engineer who participated in the study.

Local Olympic organizers said they remain confident that the city will deliver the stadium in time for the test events planned for the 2016 Games.

"The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee is satisfied that the solution presented by the city of Rio de Janeiro will allow the Olympic Stadium to be ready for the Games which will happen more than three years from now," the committee said in a statement. "We are keeping close contact with the International Olympic Committee and the IAAF regarding this subject."

The Engenhao had been the city's main stadium for the past three years while the Maracana was renovated for the upcoming Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup. The Engenhao wasn't set to host matches in those tournaments, but it could have been used for training.

The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics will take place at the Maracana, which has been reopened but remains unavailable for local clubs.

The Engenhao was being used for matches in the Rio state football championship and the Copa Libertadores, Latin America's most important club competition.

"To close a stadium so soon after it was opened is a tragedy, is a shame," said Alexandre Pinto, the city's official in charge of public constructions. "There were several mistakes in this project."

When it opened in 2007, the stadium had cost a lot more than was originally budgeted, prompting heavy criticism against local officials at the time. The final cost was about $200 million.

Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo took over the venue's administration after the Pan American Games and in 2009 it started using the name "Stadium Rio" for marketing purposes.

Rio authorities also were criticized for refusing to rename the venue after Havelange, the Brazilian former FIFA president, was accused in a Swiss court case of having received millions of dollars in a World Cup kickback scandal in the 1990s. He paid a Swiss court about $550,000 to end a criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement.

The Engenhao is expected to be upgraded from a 45,000-capacity stadium to a 60,000-capacity venue for the Olympics, when temporary seating sections will be added just before the event.