I’ve never been a huge fan of naming things after famous people and certainly not after politicians. (And don’t get me started on naming rights.)
In football, there are so few folks that are above reproach these days that to name a stadium or a stand after a player or a manager is inviting trouble.
Which makes you wonder why the Rio de Janeiro authorities even considered naming their Pan American Games stadium (seen in this picturesque snap below) after João Havelange, the former head of the CBF and FIFA and a member of the International Olympic Committee. All three institutions have long had a reputation of being rotten to the core.
Well, back in 2007 they did and it was appropriate in at least one respect. The João Havelange Olympic Stadium was supposed to cost 30 million reais and ended up costing 380 million. And even then it wasn’t built to high enough standards for FIFA to even consider using it as a venue in the 2014 World Cup.
So far, so FIFA and CBF and IOC.
Now, a week after Swiss prosecutors revealed that Havelange took bribes, there is a small but growing movement to change the stadium’s name.
Some people want to change the name of the stadium to Nilton Santos, the former Botafogo and Brazil full back, or João Saldanha, the former Brazil manager.
I am against them naming it after someone else for the reasons argued above. You’re always going to find someone opposed, even if there’s no suggestion Nilton Santos or João Saldanha has skeletons in his cupboard.
Most Cariocas already call the stadium the Engenhão, after the neighbourhood where it’s located. Why not just formalise that? The Engenhão stadium sounds good to me. And it avoids any controversy.
Typically, the Rio organising committee hasn’t commented on the affair. But they can’t be happy at the thought of the 2016 Olympic Games being held at a stadium named after a man the world knows is corrupt.
You have to think it’s only a matter of time before they make a subtle change. They’d be wise to do it sooner rather than later.