Rio de Janeiro: The iconic Maracana football stadium was officially reopened Saturday, almost three years after being closed for reconstruction work ahead of next year`s FIFA World Cup.
Brazil`s president Dilma Rousseff was among 28,000 invitation-only spectators at an exhibition match featuring teams captained by former World Cup winners Ronaldo and Bebeto, reports Xinhua.
The crowd comprised mainly of the venue`s construction workers and their families. It was the first of several test events planned at the stadium before June`s Confederations Cup, considered an organisational warm-up for the World Cup.
The venue will host the final of both tournaments as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
"The Maracana is a symbol for football and I am so happy to be a part of this celebration," three-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award Ronaldo said.
"It is looking amazing. I have no doubt it is now going to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world."
The Maracana was originally built for the 1950 World Cup, the only previous occasion that football`s showpiece event has been held in Brazil.
Originally budgeted at USD 200 million, the final cost of redevelopment work has reached USD 500 million.
Controversy has also surrounded delays caused by worker strikes and reported problems with the venue`s roof.
The 79,000-capacity stadium was originally scheduled to be ready by December last year and was twice granted deadline extensions by football`s governing body FIFA.
The new Maracana will host its first international match when Brazil meets England in a friendly, June 2.