2 WCup stadiums had same designer as Rio

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Local organizers have dismissed the possibility of design problems with the new roofs at two World Cup stadiums after it emerged Thursday that the same contractor also designed the roof that led to the closure of the Olympic athletics venue in Rio de Janeiro.

Projeto Alpha, headed by engineer Flavio D'Alambert, was responsible for the roof at Rio's Joao Havelange Stadium, which was temporarily closed on Tuesday following reports of structural problems.

D'Alambert maintains the stadium remains safe, despite the city's decision to close it. But the problem raised questions about the World Cup projects he was involved with.

Local World Cup organizers affirmed, however, that the roofs of the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba and the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza have both been tested and will not pose any safety risks. They said there were no changes planned because of what happened at the Joao Havelange, which is known locally as the Engenhao.

Organizers in Cuiaba said in a statement "there is no reason for concern because it's a completely different project and all tests have been successfully conducted to guarantee the Arena Pantanal will be safe during the World Cup next year."

The Arena Castelao was the first to be completed ahead of this year's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, and organizers said there hasn't been any problem with its roof so far. Organizers in Fortaleza told the UOL web portal, which first reported that D'Alambert was also involved in the World Cup projects, said there are no safety concerns at the venue.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said Tuesday that authorities are focused on finding a solution to fix the Engenhao before looking into what went wrong and who was responsible for the problem.

The decision to close the stadium was taken after three different reports were submitted to the mayor by the venue's constructors. The reports said there was a risk the roof could collapse depending on wind speed and temperature.

D'Alambert stood by his original calculations and said the venue was safe.

"I respect the reports, but I trust the calculations we conducted," he told GloboEsporte.com. "It there were any doubts about the safety, I would've been the first to come forward. I'd take my family to (the stadium)."

Calls and messages left by The Associated Press to D'Alambert were not immediately answered.

The problem with the roof was not new and had been monitored by D'Alambert and the construction companies for quite some time. The arches holding the roof allegedly moved 50 percent more than expected after temporary structures were removed.

Usain Bolt, in Rio for a promotional tour, downplayed concerns with the athletics venue for the 2016 Olympics.

"The games are three years away, there's a lot of time until then," he told Brazilian media. "Problems like this happen anywhere in the world."

Local Olympic organizers also dismissed concerns with the venue, and the IOC said on Wednesday it was "absolutely confident" about Rio's preparations despite the setback at the Engenhao.

Rio officials said it could take up to 60 days to evaluate the full extent of the problem and determine a solution for the Engenhao, which has been the city's main Rio stadium since the Maracana closed for renovation ahead of the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

The venue was built for the 2007 Pan American Games and is expected to be upgraded from a 46,000-capacity stadium to a 60,000-capacity stadium for the Olympics, when temporary seats will be added.

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