Stadia turn into hospitals to handle COVID-19 outbreak


Pacaembu Stadium Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum/Arup/

As COVID-19 has made a mess of all sporting events the world over, few stadiums are being put to alternative use – they are being used as hospitals, and also being put to other use in countries where coronavirus cases are rising by the day.

Pacaembu Stadium

Pacaembu Stadium in downtown São Paulo (Brazil) is being turned into an open-air hospital to handle cases from the coronavirus outbreak.

The stadium which can fit in about 45,000 spectators is expected to house more than 200 beds for minor cases of COVID-19. It should be ready in 10 days time. The Anhembi convention center will also be used as a hospital over the next few weeks.

The stadium is close to several major hospitals in Brazil’s biggest metropolis, which is the local epicenter of the disease.

Till date, Brazil has reported more than 2,247 coronavirus cases and 46 deaths. Two persons have recovered so far.

Clubs are offering almost all venues used in the 2014 World Cup as open-air hospitals and health care units. Brazil has a public health care system, but federal and State officials believe it will be overwhelmed by the end of April.

Brazil has put a halt to all kinds of professional soccer. Three matches in the Roraima State championship recently were stopped by the local sports body hours before they began in the northern region close to the border with Venezuela.

The Sao Paulo State championship – which was held in the Pacaembu Stadium – has been suspended for more than a week. The construction of the field hospital in Pacaembu has started following the formalization of a partnership between Allegra Pacaembu (the company that manages the Pacaembu complex), which acquired the concession for the operation of the stadium and the complex, with the City Hall. In total, the two sites will house 2,200 beds to receive patients with coronavirus of low hospital complexity.

Patients who will have beds in these places will be defined by the Municipal Health Department, after having passed other hospitals or basic health units, where screening will be carried out.

According to the City Hall, Allegra Pacaembu has among its partners Progen, a company which boasts vast experience in assembling temporary structures and also in the construction of field hospitals with tents.

The Pacaembu Complex will be closed to the general public and for sports throughout this operation.

The field of the Pacaembu Stadium is lined with metal frames as workers erect an open-air hospital to treat patients suffering from COVID-19.

Maracanã Stadium

One of the most famous stadiums in the world – Maracanã Stadium at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil which was a showpiece venue for the Rio Olympics – is to be converted into a field hospital to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

The epochal Maracanã in Rio de Janiero — host of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics and the 2014 FIFA World CupTM final — will be transformed to accommodate the rising number of confirmed cases in Brazil.

The 78,000-seat stadium, home of 2019 Copa Libertadores winner Flamengo, is just one of several stadiums and convention centers set to be converted following COVID-19 taking a fatal form.

The other clubs which have offered their facilities to tackle the spread of the coronavirus outbreak includes Corinthians, Santos, Sao Paulo and Goias, which said it would offer its Serrinha Stadium as a vaccination center.

The Brazilian Football Confederation suspended all football last week, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was taken following Gremio players taking to the pitch wearing face masks in protest of having to play a match while the South American country battles with COVID-19.

The iconic Maracanã Stadium was built for the 1950 FIFA World CupTM hosting the final between Brazil and Uruguay (which Brazil lost) in front of a crowd of nearly 200,000, making it the world’s largest stadium by capacity at the time.

And it was at the Maracanã that Brazil’s Pele, who goes down in the annals of history as the greatest footballer of all times, became the first player to score 1,000 professional goals.

It was redecorated for the 2014 FIFA World CupTM at a cost of more than $500 million, and has also hosted the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2007
Pan-American Games, among other concerts and regional football tournaments.

But, following the conclusion of the Paralympics in 2016, the stadium gradually started getting worn out, resembling a ghost town rather than the nation’s pride.

Daily tours to the famed stadium were suspended and trouble in the area rose. Unpaid bills led to the stadium power line being cut off.

However, since then, the stadium has undergone reconfiguration and once again plays host to Flamengo, Fluminense and Brazil national team games.

Hard Rock Stadium

Instead of preparing for the Miami Open tennis tournament, the Florida National Guard is busy assisting with test sites at the drive-through testing site for COVID-19 cases which opened at the Hard Rock Stadium at Miami Gardens in Florida, US, recently.

The drive-through coronavirus testing site is only for people who are more than 65 years of age and showing symptoms. Testing is free.

Guard members also are assisting with test sites at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Another is planned for Marlins Stadium in Miami.

The Guard’s role is expected to expand in the coming days and weeks.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Guard members would assist with setting up field hospitals to treat patients if that becomes necessary. That’s already happening in New York, where Guard members there were helping to convert the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan into a 2,000-bed field hospital.

Those seeking a test must meet certain criteria:

  • Must be 65 years of age or older and be symptomatic. (Must bring ID);
  • First responders and health care workers do not have to be symptomatic. (Must bring ID);
  • If he/she does not meet the criteria, he/she will be asked to exit the lot;
  • The test site is drive-through only; and
  • Test results will take 48-72 hours.

The coronavirus cases in US till date stands at 54,935 with 784 deaths reported and 379 recovered cases.

Kingspan Stadium

The Ulsters have offered use of Kingspan Stadium in Northern Ireland to the Department of Health to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Club CEO Jonny Petrie tweeted that the department is free to use the facility however they see fit as they tackle the pandemic.

The Ulster has not played at their Belfast home since February 22, and could be facing a lengthy period of inactivity.

The Pro14 is indefinitely suspended while there is no indication as to when the European Champions Cup quarter-finals may be played, although tournament organizers say they remain committed to finishing the competition.

The Ulster Rugby is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. They compete in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions. Kingspan Stadium is their residence.

There are 1,329 confirmed cases in Ireland with seven deaths and five recovered so far.

Principality Stadium

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has made the Principality Stadium in UK available to the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Health Service (NHS) to aid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

It took the decision in the battle to tackle the outbreak of Covid-19 which has gripped the world, has made it topsy-turvy and sent it into lockdown.

“We have approached the authorities and they’re aware that our facilities will be made available if and when required,” a WRU spokesperson stated.

“We’ve worked alongside the authorities over many years at our events and they’re familiar with the stadium. This is an incredibly fast moving and challenging time. The authorities were grateful for us getting in touch and we continue working together to monitor the situation,” the spokesperson added.

The sliding roof at the iconic stadium in the heart of Cardiff could be closed to turn it into an indoor venue capable of being kitted out as a medical center or for other use.

The stadium has been used previously as a temporary hospital, by St John Wales on a number of New Year’s Eve occasions, with a mobile triage and treatment center having been set up.

The WRU is following the footsteps of the regional team Scarlets, who have opened up their stadium at Llanelli to provide 500 hospital beds for coronavirus patients in west Wales as the pandemic in the country worsens.

The rugby union stadium Parc y Scarlets will be used to tackle expected overspill from hospitals dealing with the chaos emerging out of the COVID-19 situation.

Various Parc y Scarlets locations, including the Juno Moneta Indoor Arena, are being converted to be used by the NHS over the coming days with provision for up to 500 beds at the stadium.

Carmarthen Leisure Centre and the Selwyn Samuel Centre will also be used by NHS workers.

Dublin’s (in Ireland) Croke Park ground, where Wales faced Ireland while Lansdowne Road’s Aviva Stadium was being rebuilt, is being used as a drive-by Covid-19 test clinic by the Irish Government.

Stadia across the UK and Ireland are currently unoccupied with sport having been halted by the pandemic.

Till date, there are 8,077 coronavirus cases in UK with 422 deaths recorded and 135 recovered cases.


An ice rink inside a Madrid shopping mall was on Monday turned into a temporary morgue to deal with a surge in deaths in the Spanish capital due to the coronavirus, local officials said.

The ice rink at the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, shopping centre – which according to its web page has the capacity for 1,800 skaters — will be used “to store bodies”.

Bodies of people who have died of Covid-19 are now being transported by the country’s emergency military unit to the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, in Madrid’s Hortaleza neighborhood, the Madrid Regional President’s office said.

The regional government said this was a “temporary and extraordinary measure” designed to “lessen the pain of the families of the victims and the situation that’s being recorded in Madrid’s hospitals.”

Spain has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases worldwide – after China, Italy and the US – and the third highest number of deaths. The country’s latest coronavirus figures stand at 42,058, with 2,991 deaths and 3,794 recovered.


Earlier in February this year, Wuhan in China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, was scrambling to build makeshift shelter hospitals at civilian facilities. The city began transforming a local sports stadium, exhibition center and a cultural complex into medical facilities.

In fact, Wuhan scrambled to turn sports stadiums into makeshift coronavirus hospitals to arrest the spread of the virus.

These makeshift shelter hospitals were used to provide emergency aid, treatment, and clinical examination services for patients with mild coronavirus symptoms.

The Wuchang Hongshan Stadium in Wuhan, which was turned into a temporary hospital, recently closed down. The city’s 15 temporary hospitals were converted from exhibition halls, sports stadiums and warehouses.

China at present has 81,218 coronavirus cases with 3,281 deaths and 73,650 recovered cases.


Varied use


Optus Stadium

Optus Stadium in Perth is set to open its doors for the local police as the State of Western Australia steps up efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.
State Premier Mark McGowan announced on Tuesday that Western Australia Police would use the 60,000-seat stadium as a crisis management center.

With coronavirus cases witnessing a rapid surge the world over, all sporting events and music concerts at the stadium has been canceled and the venue is currently not in use. It is hoped that turning the stadium into a hub for local police will support the force’s coronavirus response effort.

“Police here will track workforce impacts and plan for the need for essential services across Western Australia,” McGowan told media persons.

“This will turn the directions that come out of State emergency committee meetings… into operational guidance for officers to ensure the resilience and continuity of law and order in Western Australia,” he further observed.

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson added, “This is one of four centers in which we are both coordinating (and) commanding a state of emergency. This is about our community. This is about us being able to make decisions … and there are many issues that will impact on people’s lives, people’s businesses and indeed the way we operate as a community.”

Dawson further informed that the stadium’s operation as an incident command center would be similar to cyclones or bushfire emergency situations.

The incident command center will involve a number of different agencies including not-for-profits, volunteer-run organizations and Government authorities.

Dawson said the ultimate goal was to ensure vital community services were available and to maintain law and order throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police are in the process of enforcing the State’s Public Health Act and the Emergency Management Act, which could see people who breach an order to self-isolate subject to penalties ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Western Australia is currently in a state of emergency and all pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, places of worship, libraries and cultural institutions have been asked to shutter down. Non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have also been banned by the Australian Government. This means that the Western Australia Police would have access to a range of new powers.

Optus Stadium opened in January 2018 and is used to stage Australian Football League (AFL) and cricket matches, as well as rugby and football.

The latest coronavirus figures in Australia stands at 2,423 with 8 deaths reported and 118 recovered cases.


Caught up with fixtures!


West Ham United

The English professional football club based in Stratford, East London, West Ham United – could face a battle to play any delayed Premier League matches at London Stadium after UK Athletics made it clear that it has not held discussions over how the venue will be used during the summer.

With the Premier League suspended until at least the end of April, it is likely that matches would need to be held over the summer if the 2019-20 seasons are to be completed.

West Ham plays its home matches at London Stadium and recently insisted that its fixtures would take priority over other events held at the venue due to a clause in its contract with landlord E20.

A two-day Major League Baseball (MLB) series is due to take place at London Stadium on June 13-14 this year, before Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer perform at the venue on June 26 as part of their joint Hella Mega Tour. The Anniversary Games athletics event is also due to be held at London Stadium on the weekend of July 4-5.

West Ham said in a statement last week that its agreement with E20 includes a clause known as the Overriding Priority Principle, which gives all of the club’s competitive matches precedence over any other activity, event or use of the stadium.

UK Athletics, however, says its events would take priority over West Ham matches. Media reports quoted UK Athletics Chairman Nice Howard as saying, “As far as we’re concerned athletics has priority and nobody has spoken to us about changes in the summer, including any plans for West Ham games.”

West Ham is currently 16th in the Premier League table as it remains unclear when the league will resume following the coronavirus outbreak.

In these times of coronavirus crisis which has overwhelmed the world, instead of reconsidering its priorities and showing much greater solidarity with the football clubs and stadiums the world over who are putting their best foot forward – turning stadiums into hospitals and facilities of other use – the West Ham United is still placing greater priority on its fixtures all based on a clause with their landlord!

Good Samaritan

It is good to see stadium authorities as well as lot of players globally playing the role of Good Samaritans and offering their venues to be converted into hospitals, crisis management center for police and ice rink being turned into morgue – to tackle the coronavirus scourge. After all, sports have this amazing, unique way of making a positive impact on society.

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