Maracanã Stadium rolling up tech sleeves



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Maracanã Stadium operational challenges Image: Maracanã Stadium

The 78,838-capacity Maracanã Stadium, officially named Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, is an association football stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The stadium is part of a complex that includes an arena known by the name of Maracanãzinho, which means ‘The Little Maracanã’ in Portuguese. It is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. The venue boasts two top-flights as its tenants – Flamengo Rio de Janeiro and Fluminense Rio de Janeiro. Cultural events are also held in the facility.

Igor Cavaco, Former Venue Manager, Maracanã Stadium, Brazil, in an exclusive to ‘Coliseum’ tries to drive home the fact how digitalization is the key to scripting a venue’s success story – and how the future of the sports venue sector is all about futuristic stadia as contactless and touchless are the main mantras these days in a world plagued by COVID-19 and its variants.

Igor Cavaco observed that a world which is still experiencing the COVID seesaw situation and the pangs of the dreaded disease, the stadia will also have to bring about a 360 degree transformation in their approach towards fans and to ensure that fans stay safe while they are inside the facilities, venues will have to adopt cutting-edge technology to make the whole fan journey safe and secure.
 

Go digital

  • Fans’ behavior will undergo huge change in a post-COVID world and so will their expectations. Fans would want a seamless stadium experience; and
  • Touchless and contactless will be the key words and the same will have to be enabled with the adoption of digital technology.

 

Tech-driven

Stated Cavaco, “Stadium operations in a post-COVID world will have to be purely driven by futuristic technology. On this front, we are carrying out a study regarding the operational model. We have to introduce cutting-edge technology to enhance the fan experience further in Copa América stadia. We want fans to savor a whole new technical journey where everything will be touchless and contactless for them and for this to happen we will have to reshape the stadia.”

Copa América or CONMEBOL Copa América, known until 1975 as the South American Football Championship, is the main men’s football tournament contested among national teams from South America. It is the oldest still-running continental football competition, as well as the third most watched in the world.

The Maracanã Stadium was totally restructured in the year 2013 and a futuristic touch was lent to it but as Cavaco puts in, “In a COVID-struck planet we will have to further upgrade the technical features of the stadium and will have to open up our purse strings for the same. We have a rainwater harvesting system in place to keep the sustainability quotient high. The arena also features several eateries to cater to the foodies and bars for people who like to spend time in watering holes.”
 

Maracanã Stadium infrastructure update:

  • Solar panel plant – can generate around 538,000 kWh annually;
  • Automated system;
  • Seventy-eight speakers in the stands and field and 3,860 in the indoor areas;
  • The pitch irrigation system is one of the most modern, being fully automated, with individual control, consisting of 54 sprinklers;
  • Reusing rainwater;
  • Three hundred and ninety six (396) spotlights for scoreboards;
  • Four (4) electronic scoreboards, 360 indoors digital screen; and
  • Approximately, two (2) km of fiber optics that caters to FIFA specifications.

 
He said that the millennial generation loves to be close to the scene of action i.e., they prefer an up-close look of the pitch action and also prefers close interaction with the teams. And the Maracanã Stadium will have to live up to these expectations of the millennial crowd.

As Cavaco further pointed out, “In the Copa América Final held at the Maracanã Stadium in 2019, the fans had turned on their flashlights and everybody was live streaming the match. We will have to continue with this as real-time livestream and technology is going to offer unique possibilities.”

To give topmost priority to the security and safety factor, the venue is trying to implement the facial recognition technology as part of the biometric security. Cavaco informed that this is something which has been implemented in stadia in Russia and they are just trying to replicate the same exercise – “Technology gives us a chance to create higher levels of security for fans inside the stadium as well as outside.”
 

Catering to the ‘digitized’ generation

  • Stadiums need to change with the watch-from-home experience of sophisticated TVs, second screens and access to social media from the couch;
  • Digital media is gradually eroding the millennial fan share; and
  • In-stadium experiences must meet ever rising fan expectations from an increasingly digitized consumer world.

 

The ‘smart stadium’ concept:

  • To lure fans back to the sporting venue to revive the unique social fan experience;
  • Smart stadiums are enhancing stadium operations and security, deepening loyalty and adding value to the brand and sponsors;
  • Immersive AR/VR/MR experiences blending in-stadium experience with virtual or real-time analytical content 360;
  • Content 360-degree replays and player perspectives;
  • Mobile payment/ticketing and in-stadium upgrades;
  • Mobile betting;
  • In-stadium mobile navigation;
  • Upgrading food and drinks in-app ordering (click & collect or Uber Eats like delivery system); and
  • Smart parking.

 
Informed Cavaco, “We want to implement advanced technology in Maracanã Stadium so that people can walk around the stadium and soak in the beautiful view of the landscape. We also want fans to indulge in mobile betting in real-time and to facilitate the same, we have set up a robust network connection. And just like at the arenas in the United States, we plan to introduce in-seat food and beverage services for fans. We are also planning to create more parking spots.”
 

Future plans

Plans are being drawn out to build expansive suites inside the Maracanã Stadium and people could rent the same for a day or two and relish memorable moments with their friends or family.
 

Future tech plans

  • High-speed low latency mobile connectivity (DAS, 4/5G small cells);
  • Advanced analytics and AI/machine learning robotics;
  • Cloud/edge computing;
  • Robotics and drones;
  • Beacon-based indoor localization and navigation; and
  • IoT and cyber-physical conversion;

 
The Maracanã Stadium authorities plan to introduce high-speed connectivity and 5G facilities in the near future. Using beacon technology and virtual reality are also among the scheme of things.
 

Security and sustainability perspective:

  • Security cameras with facial recognition;
  • Real-time, efficient crowd and access control;
  • Automated emergency response; and
  • Sustainability solutions improving energy efficiency.

 

Security priority

Cavaco shared, “The Maracanã Stadium is planning big on the security front. The police and the technical team will have to work in perfect harmony to share information and to conduct strict security checks both at the ingress and egress points of the venue. We are also planning to introduce the facial recognition biometric security system and will also become a center of automated emergency response and all these initiatives will be taken to make spectators feel secure inside the facility.”

He concluded by stating, “As the Maracanã Stadium sits at a central location in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the communication network to the stadium will have to be a seamless one. We also want to make it an energy-efficient building and as Brazil has an advanced waste recycling and waste management system in place, we plan to take full advantage of the same and implement it in the venue.”

The Maracanã Stadium is reading into the psyche of a growing number of discerning spectators and is trying to pull up its technology socks to meet their requirements in increasingly sophisticated ways.

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