The Arena das Dunas in Natal, which officially opened this Wednesday, will host four games featuring eight different teams, including two former FIFA World Cup™-winning nations, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

The official opening of the stadium was attended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chairman Jose Maria Marin. Also present were Governor of Rio Grande do Norte Rosalba Ciarlini and Mayor of Natal Carlos Eduardo Alves, as well as former players Bebeto, an LOC Management Board member, and Cafu, captain of the Brazil team that won the 2002 World Cup.

“Today’s inauguration of the Arena das Dunas in Natal represents another important step towards Brazil hosting the World Cup to end all World Cups," President Rousseff said. "The 42,000-seater stadium will host four games during the World Cup and after the event will become the home of ABC and America. As well as football, the Arena das Dunas will be used for concerts, trade shows, workshops, major events and exhibitions. The next World Cup stadium to be delivered will be the Estadio Beira-Rio, in my beloved Porto Alegre.”

FIFA Secretary General Valcke accompanied Rousseff and local officials in the ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of the Arena das Dunas. He then took to the field for the symbolic kick-off with the President of Brazil.

“I would like to congratulate Natal for all the hard work that has gone into building this beautiful stadium," Valcke said. "The fans that come here for the 2014 FIFA World Cup will have a wonderful experience amidst the unique scenery of this marvellous city.”

“This stadium is a gift from Natal and Rio Grande do Norte not just to Brazilian football but to all Brazilians,” LOC Chairman Marin said.

The Arena das Dunas was built on the site of the old Estadio Machadao, which opened in 1972, and takes its name from the spectacular sand dunes of the beaches of Rio Grande do Norte. The stadium has a capacity of 32,000, and will have an extra 10,000 temporary seats during Brazil 2014.

“Rio Grande do Norte has worked tremendously hard to get ready for the World Cup and I am sure we are going to be one of the best host cities,” the Governor of Rio Grande do Norte, Rosalba Ciarlini said.

“Tourism is the main economic activity of Natal and Rio Grande do Norte, and the World Cup is the best opportunity we'll ever have to let the whole planet know all about our city,” Mayor of Natal, Carlos Eduardo Alves said.

Natal’s first game in the 2014 World Cup will be on 13 June between two of Brazil’s Group A opponents, Mexico and Cameroon. Three days later, it will be the turn of Group G rivals Ghana and USA to go head-to-head. 

On 19 June, Japan will take on Greece in Group C, before a mouth-watering clash in Group D on 24 June, when four-time world champions Italy and two-time winners Uruguay face off in the last World Cup game in the city.

“It’s a beautiful stadium," Bebeto said. "Congratulations to everyone involved, especially the workers who helped build it."

“It makes me wish I could be out there on the pitch playing when I see a stadium like this," was Cafu's verdict. "I played in four World Cups and I know how special it is to be hosting an event like this in Brazil.”

The stadium will host its first games this Sunday, with a double-header featuring the two biggest teams in Natal: America-RN and ABC. First America will take on Confianca in the Copa do Nordeste, followed by ABC's meeting with Alecrim in a Natal clássico in the Rio Grande do Norte state championship.