World Cup preparations forge ahead in the middle of the Amazon

BY newsdesk  September 25, 2013 at 5:41 PM EST

Photo by Getty Images.

Building a stadium in the Amazon rainforest is no easy achievement; and as the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup gets closer each day, construction crews in Manaus, Brazil are really beginning to feel the heat. Between the rain, humidity, logistics and bureaucracy, building a World Cup stadium in the rainforest is turning out to be an extraordinary undertaking.

The World Cup has never been staged in a rainforest before — much less in the Amazon. Crews have struggled to figure out how they can transport oversized cranes and hundreds of tons of stainless steel into cities that are surrounded by miles of rainforest.

They race against the clock to install most materials before the rainy season, and potential washout floods hit construction sites. A less obvious but truly perplexing issue is what can be done about the stadium’s seats, which need to be made out of a material that won’t warp in the scorching equatorial sun.

Some critics of the Manaus stadium say that the painstaking building efforts aren’t worth the effort. “The stadiums in Manaus, Cuiaba and Natal — they are absurd, Rom├írio de Souza Faria said in a recent interview. A former Brazilian national team player and a current member of the Brazilian Congress continued, “There will be a couple games there and then what? Who will go? It is an absolute waste of time and money.”

Local officials, however, believe that the stadiums will bring significant exposure to the Amazon region. “I think people would be surprised by what’s here and what the people here do,” said Harold M. Wright, director of the international relations office at the University of the State of Amazonas in Manaus. “Having the stadium is important to this city. There’s a lot more passion for football here than people realize.”