Bernabeu, Maracana stadiums being used to combat coronavirus

Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium and Rio de Janeiro's Maracana sports complex are being used to their respective countries' efforts to stem the coronavirus crisis.

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Real Madrid's home stadium will be utilized as a makeshift storage facility as Spain faces an uphill battle against the pandemic, the club announced on Thursday in conjunction with the country's Superior Sports Council.

Following confirmation that Real Madrid will donate much-needed medical equipment to hospitals in the Spanish capital, the club has handed control of the Bernabeu to the Higher Council for Sports (CSD), which will manage the stadium's use as a storage centre for medical equipment and supplies during the crisis.

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"Thanks to the close collaboration between these two institutions [CSD and Real Madrid], the stadium will become an adapted space to store donations of healthcare supplies destined to fight this pandemic," the CSD said in a statement.

Home to Real Madrid since 1944, the Bernabeu has hosted the 1982 World Cup final and several UEFA Champions League finals.

Spain is second only to Italy in numbers of deaths due to the virus, with the toll passing 4,000 on Thursday. Over 56,000 people have so far tested positive for the coronavirus in the country. The lockdown in Spain is expected to be extended once the initial 15-day measure is completed this weekend.

Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities will use the Maracana, which includes the world famous football stadium, as a temporary hospital to help fight coronavirus.

As cases of coronavirus have spread in Brazil, reaching over 2,900 on Thursday, state authorities have sought sports venues for use as temporary hospitals.

Seventy-seven people have died from the disease, although President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the illness, comparing it to a "little flu."

At the state level, governors have been implementing lockdowns and trying to expand medical facilities, even as Bolsonaro harshly criticizes them for what he has described as an unnecessary slowdown of Latin America's largest economy.

The Maracana will join Sao Paulo's Pacaembu stadium and the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia as they are converted into temporary health facilities. Brazil's football federation has suspended the current season of the country's national tournament due to the outbreak.

The Rio stadium held the 2014 FIFA World Cup final as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games. It was inaugurated for the 1950 FIFA World Cup and is among the largest venues in the world.

Rio de Janeiro authorities said they had yet to decide how many beds the Maracana would hold. It was also unclear whether the temporary hospital would be built on the soccer playing field itself or elsewhere in the sports complex, which is also home to a track and field stadium and an aquatic park.

Overall, Rio de Janeiro's state, Brazil's second most populous, expects to build six temporary hospitals.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.