World Cup 2014: Brazil's Maracana stadium reopens as Ronaldo graces the stage


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The Independent Football

The Maracana reopened after nearly three years of renovation on Saturday, with construction workers getting the first glimpse of the iconic Rio de Janeiro stadium that will host the 2014 World Cup final and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.

The new stadium's first match was an exhibition between Friends of Ronaldo and Friends of Bebeto, former Brazil team-mates.

"It looks amazing," said Ronaldo, who was in the Brazil squad which won the World Cup in 1994 and played a major role in helping his country recapture the trophy in 2002. "I'm happy to see the stadium ready again. The Maracana is a symbol of this country," added Ronaldo, who delighted the crowd with a stunning goal.

The workers who helped renovate the famed venue and their families were invited to witness the first test event at the new stadium, which will be home to three Confederations Cup matches in June, including the final. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was among nearly 30,000 people who attended the inauguration, which came after a series of delays, criticisms and protests.

A few hundred people held a peaceful protest (above) against the stadium's privatisation plan over the weekend, claiming it will provide the government with far less money than it invested in the venue and will lead to the demolition of several local facilities.