The first of the stadiums that will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ was handed over on Sunday, some 15 days before the initial deadline agreed with FIFA and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Organising Committee (LOC) in 2007.

Boasting a capacity of 64,000, the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza heralds a new era in Brazilian football, with 12 safe, comfortable, sustainable and state-of-the-art stadiums opening their doors between now and 2014 across all five regions of Brazil.

“The Estadio Castelao does credit to Brazil in every sense and shows that we are winners both on and off the pitch,” announced Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the stadium’s inauguration ceremony. “The handover of this stadium marks the start of a decisive phase in the preparations for the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup. We all feel a sense of fulfilment at this moment in time.”

Though he was in Japan attending the FIFA Club World Cup final, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter addressed those present in a video message, which was shown on the stadium’s screen: “The Fortaleza venue is a perfect example of the excellent partnership between the Brazilian government, the Host Cities, the LOC and, above all, the people of Brazil. I would like to congratulate all those involved for their wonderful work. I cannot wait to go to Fortaleza and visit this wonderful stadium.”

“This is a historic date not just for the people of the state of Ceara, which is passionate about its football, but for all the people of Brazil,” commented LOC Chairman Jose Maria Marin, who was also speaking from Japan. “With six months to go before the FIFA Confederations Cup, the early handovers of the Estadio Castelao today and the Estadio Mineirao next Friday fill us with pride and enthusiasm.” 

For his part, the Governor of Ceara Cid Gomes had this to say: “This beautiful stadium is the result of the endeavour of nearly 2,000 operatives, who have worked steadfastly to make it a reality. The fans of Fortaleza and Ceara are celebrating today because football here is becoming more and more important.”

During her tour of the new Estadio Castelao, President Rousseff had the honour of becoming the first person to kick a ball on the pitch. The first official games to be played at the stadium will be two Copa do Nordeste ties on 27 January, with local outfits Ceara and Fortaleza playing host to Bahia and Sport respectively.

The stadium will be managed and operated by the LOC and FIFA during the Exclusive Use Period only, which begins 21 days before the opening match of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and, the following year, before the FIFA World Cup.

“It needs to be said that Fortaleza has taken a very professional approach as a Host City and has had a dedicated project team in place from the very outset,” commented LOC CEO Ricardo Trade. “There are six months to go before the FIFA Confederations Cup, and we are now in a position to work calmly in partnership with the Host City in one or two test events with similar operational procedures to the ones we’ll be offering in June 2013.”