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COVID-19 venue news: Maracanã, Rotterdam Ahoy and more


The state government of Rio de Janeiro has commenced work on establishing a field hospital in the complex housing the Maracanã.

The facility is being built in Célio de Barros, an athletics track outside the iconic 80,000-capacity stadium that is no longer in use. It will house 400 beds and be one of eight temporary facilities set up across the Brazilian state to help deal with COVID-19 patients.

Work commenced yesterday (Tuesday) and is expected to be complete in 10 days. The area will also house a logistics centre and storage facilities. The process was initiated after Campeonato Brasileiro Série A football clubs Flamengo and Fluminense, current tenants of the Maracanã, reached an agreement with the state government, which owns the stadium.

A number of major stadia across Brazil are being used to combat COVID-19, including São Paulo’s Pacaembu and Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia. However, the Maracanã pitch will not be used for temporary facilities.

Rotterdam Ahoy

In the Netherlands, work has started on the conversion of the Rotterdam Ahoy arena into a temporary care location to relieve the burden on the city’s hospitals.

The move has been made possible after it was announced last month that the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest would be cancelled for the first time in its 65-year history due to COVID-19. The Ahoy was due to host the event from May 12-16.

Instead the arena will be converted into a response centre, with up to five different units. The first unit, with 88 beds, will be ready by April 13. Capacity can then potentially rise to 680 beds.

Ahoy director Jolanda Jansen told the AD.nl website: “After the decision that Eurovision should not take place, that soon passed in our minds. We immediately realised that there were more important things. How important, you can see that now.

“Visitors should (normally) party here. The fact that patients are now coming is bizarre. We have never experienced this as Ahoy, but we are happy to do it if we can help in this way.”

Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi 

In Argentina, Superliga football club Estudiantes has made space available at its Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi.

The Municipality of La Plata has been granted space to establish an Intermediate Attention Centre, the first in the urban area of the capital of Buenos Aires Province.

Primary care tasks will be carried out at the facility, which will house more than 20 beds. The new-look Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi reopened its doors in November after a redevelopment project.

Ashton Gate, Gresty Road

In England, Ashton Gate Stadium, home of Championship football club Bristol City and Premiership rugby union team Bristol Bears, has offered its facilities to the NHS.

Mark Kelly, the stadium’s managing director, told BBC Radio Bristol that the venue’s conference centre and restaurant area could be utilised, if needed. The conference centre at Bristol’s University of the West of England is being prepared as a potential temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Kelly said: “A bit like UWE, we’re a large space, we have the facilities and logistics. If you look at our restaurant, it’s a 1,000-seater restaurant, so we could become a smaller hospital, or some sort of supply chain network. We’re just really keen to help in some way.”

Meanwhile, League Two club Crewe Alexandra has pledged the use of its Gresty Road stadium and training ground facilities in the fight against the pandemic.

Image: Flamengo