Well, the World Cup draw wasn’t kind to the United States. In Group G, we face Ghana (which has beaten the U.S. team), Portugal, and one of what I consider the strongest teams for winning World Cup 2014, Germany.
Worse yet for American fans, the venues for the U.S. games are far-flung, in Manaus, Natal, and Recife, each a long distance from either Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, which means that transportation and lodging for the team and the fans will be a nightmare. The distance between the venues means that the U.S. team, which will be based in Sao Paulo, will have to travel for several hours to each venue and back, necessitating a secondary base at each venue, complete with full security. I simply don’t see how that will be possible.
Remember, Brazil (in red) is larger in physical size than the United States.
The first U.S. game will be in Manaus, one of the remotest spots on earth, in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest, where England’s coach Roy Hodgson is apparently persona non grata with the jungle city’s mayor, Arthur Virgílio Neto, for comments he made regarding the locale and the inhospitable climate. “We Amazonians would also prefer it if England did not come here,” Neto said in a statement. “We will be hoping for a better draw of a team with more sensitive, cultured and educated technicians.”
Fifa is being pressed to change its rules to allow players to stop for a water break in Manuas, where June’s winter temperatures regularly reach 38C-40C (100F-104F), with 58% to 99% humidity. (Thank goodness June is the dry season in the rainforest!) The water-break idea is vital in these conditions. A spokeswoman for the Italian FA (which will play England in the first game in Manaus) said: “It’s a nightmare. It might be a good story for the tournament but not in any other way. We’re going to have to be able to drink on the pitch, it’s a serious risk of dehydration for the players.”
Not only is the climate going to be a challenge, but simply getting to the games in Manaus will be nearly impossible. The distance from Rio to Manaus is 1,770 miles (about the distance from New York City to Denver), and the only way to get there, reasonably, is by flying. Look at the map above. How many cities do you see within reasonable driving distance from Manaus? Yep, that’s right. ZERO.
So, let’s say you can get to Manaus (possibly flying to a city nearby from Dallas or Miami), and even find lodging (perhaps in a treehouse hotel)…what about the games? The stadium in Manaus is currently incomplete, and the construction is behind schedule.
Given that Manaus is hardly a hotbed of football culture – the city’s Nacional team is lucky to draw 3,000 supporters, the 43,000-seater stadium being built for World Cup 2014 is likely to sit empty once the World Cup carnival has moved on. (This is one of the complaints of the multi-million protests occurring in Brazil since June 2013. Huge money spent on venues that will sit unused after the competition.)
Natal (1,557 miles from Rio) and Recife (1,430 miles from Rio) are also glorious locales, along Brazil’s world-class shoreline. Simply spectacular.
FIFA and other World Cup supporters, as well as Brazil’s international relations folks, are touting the far-flung locales as exotic and once-in-a-lifetime visiting opportunities, and with good reason. Brazil is the land of exotic dreams, and unique ecology. As the Guardian writes:
“Located in one of the planet’s last great wildernesses, Manaus is doubly isolated: first by the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, then by a sea of green forest that stretches close to 600 miles on all sides. The electric storms that buffet Manaus sometimes overload the local grid and burn out computers, air conditioners and fridges. Rainy-season downpours can turn a building site into a swimming pool. The equatorial sunlight is so intense that it can bleach coloured plastic seating.
“Getting to the centre of the Amazon will also require a 1,700 mile journey [from Rio], but once fans are there, Manaus will be one of the most exotic and locations that … fans have ever visited. For the more intrepid who need to while away the hours before kick-off, there are boat rides down the world’s greatest river and the chance to swim with pink dolphins [and piranhas and caymen].
“Other attractions include the 19th century Manaus Opera House and the city’s annual festival, Boi-Bumbá, a rumbustuous combination of indigenous and immigrant styles of music and dancing.”
It all sounds marvelous if you are planning on vacationing in Brazil. But as locales for World Cup venues, this will be a nightmare. Reportedly, some 109 hotels and resorts are being constructed for the World Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympics, but these are high-end accommodations for the well-to-do, not Holiday Inn-style family motels. The average traveler might only find lodgings in Brazil’s motels, the subject of another blog.
World Cup visitors should be advised that they will need to be vaccinated against yellow fever in several of these exotic locales. In fact, all World Cup visitors should make sure they have the necessary/ required/ recommended vaccines before coming to World Cup 2014.
The World Cup 2010 in South Africa saw the fewest visitors to a World Cup since 1994. A drastically limited number of fans are expected to travel to Brazil, due to the high cost of hotel rooms and flights, both of which cost three to four times the normal rates, if you can get them. Stay tuned for updates….