Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Brazil lauds World Cup stadium in the Amazonas region

AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

Despite acknowledging some teething problems, Brazil on Monday lauded the Arena Amazonia in Amazonas State capital Manaus after the stadium became the eighth venue to be inaugurated for this year’s FIFA World Cup.

The brand-new, 44,000-seat arena passed its opening test overnight as 23,000 people attended a regional cup encounter between two local sides.

Brazil fought to have the Amazonas State included as one of 12 hosts for world soccer’s top competition, despite Manaus having no top club, raising fears that the ground might become a “white elephant” after it hosts four World Cup opening-phase games, the first of which sees four-time champions Italy take on 1966 winners England on June 14.

The US$279 million, four-year project has cost three workers their lives in on-site accidents in the city lying at the heart of the Amazonian rainforest.

Brazilian Minister for Sport Aldo Rebelo was enthusiastic after Sunday’s game saw the spectacular venue, which is in the form of a woven basket typical of the region, hold its first game.

Rebelo stressed the importance of including the region despite its lack of soccer tradition since the Amazon covers more than half of Brazil’s territory.

The venue is only officially 97 percent complete, leading the media to focus on problems such as some seats still being smeared with cement and malfunctioning air-conditioning units.

Officials said there was no time to rest after the first game milestone, since after hosting Italy and England, the stadium will host a Croatia-Cameroon clash, Portugal against the US and Switzerland versus Honduras.

“We had various problems which we must put right,” said Miguel Capobiango, the city’s World Cup coordinator.

Yet Amazonas State Governor Omar Aziz said only minor details needed to be finished.

“We fulfilled our agreement with FIFA and now some details need to be ironed out,” he said.

With the Cup now less than 100 days away, Porto Alegre is the next stadium set for delivery, with Curitiba’s Arena de Baixada, Cuiaba’s Arena Pantanal and Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena still undergoing construction.

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