The famous Maracanã has already wowed the world once, as host venue of the spectacular Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony. Sunday's closing ceremony promises another unforgettable show - and if it is anything like the curtain-raiser, we're sure to see a fantastic celebration of Brazil's culture and its people's vivacious spirit.
At the heart of every Olympic Games lies sport, of course, and the world's elite practitioners, the athletes. For just over two weeks, they become the embodiment of patriotic passion, competitive spirit, and a love of sporting endeavour shared by billions across the globe. Once every four years, they bring just over two weeks of joy and celebration, emotion and camaraderie into our lives. And it all takes place at the Olympic venues.
The Maracanã is not just any venue, of course. And whilst a wonderful backdrop to the opening and closing ceremonies, it is certainly more than a ceremonial stage, however grandiose the occasion. Here in Brazil, where football is like a religion, it is a temple. And over four games later this week, Rio 2016 athletes will step on to the hallowed turf for the final stages of the competition.
Everyone pitching in
Even before memories of the opening ceremony had faded, preparation was underway to bring the Maracanã back to its natural state. For the first time in Brazil, 'ready-to-play' turf has been installed. The existing pitch was removed ahead of the opening ceremony and between 8-12 August, 640 12-metre rolls of pressurised, climate-controlled turf were transported to the stadium from Saquarema, 85km away. Teams worked at night to ensure the temperature was optimal.
The Maracanã hosted the semi-final of the women's competition on Tuesday (16 August) between Brazil and Sweden, and the men's semi-final between the hosts and Honduras on Wednesday (17 August).
The women's final will take place on Friday (19 August), to be followed by the men's final on Saturday (20 August), with both matches starting at 5.30pm. On Sunday, the stadium will host the closing ceremony.
First published on www.rio2016.com, written by Daniel Orders, 15 Aug 2016