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News > Latin America

Corruption Inflated Brazil's World Cup and Olympic Stadiums

  • An aerial view shows the Christ the Redeemer statue with the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul. 16, 2016.

    An aerial view shows the Christ the Redeemer statue with the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul. 16, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 April 2017

Even Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo was used as part of the widespread bribery scheme. 

Brazilian stadiums that hosted the country’s Olympics and the FIFA World Cup are the latest to become swallowed up in the ongoing Odebrecht corruption scandal.

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According to testimonies reported by local media Friday, officials and politicians worked in tandem with constructors to deliberately inflate the price of taxpayer funded stadiums, allowing them to receive huge kickbacks.

Faced with the prospect of lighter sentences, a number of heads from Brazil's largest construction conglomerate Odebrecht gave live testimonies that have implicated a number of officials in the corruption scandal.

Local media reported that money from six of the 12 stadiums that were built or renovated for the 2014 World Cup ended up in the pockets of officials and company executives as drastically overinflated prices were skimmed off.

Major renovations to Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã, the country’s most iconic soccer stadium and host of the 2014 World Cup final, cost around 75 percent more than what was originally planned at a total of US$383 million, according to government figures.

The Mane Garrincha Stadium in the capital Brasilia was the most expensive stadium. Originally projected to cost $US238 million, it ended up being almost 88 percent more expensive at $US447 million. 

The renovation contract for the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo — host of the opening World Cup game — was “informally” settled during a dinner at former Odebrecht boss Marcelo Odebrecht’s house. According to Odebrecht’s testimony, the dinner included the then governor and mayor of São Paulo while Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo was brought along “to add importance to the event.”

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“Without us there would have been no World Cup and no Olympic Games. There would have been nothing,” Odebrecht added. He is one of 77 executives that have so far testified as part of the country’s Operation Car Wash investigations.

Other executives that have testified have explained how the company needed to implement an accounting department, or “bribes department,” to keep track of corrupt dealings which have extended to the heart of Brazilian politics.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil ordered criminal investigations of over 100 politicians. The list includes eight ministers appointed by President Michel Temer— nearly one-third of the president's cabinet.

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