Much-criticised World Cup venue Manaus stages first game
SAO PAULO: Nine of the 12 arenas are now ready for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after 20,000 fans watched the inaugural game in the Manaus stadium that will host some of the first round`s most compelling matches.
Local side Nacional drew 2-2 with Remo on Sunday in the Amazonia Arena which was used even though sections are still incomplete. The stadium can seat 44,500 but only parts of the ground were opened for the game.
The Manaus venue was supposed to be completed by December. Now that it has been used, only the stadiums in Cuiaba, Curitiba and Sao Paulo are still not ready.
Brazil host Croatia in Sao Paulo`s Corinthians Arena in the opening World Cup match on June 12.
The official cost of the Manaus venue, one of the most criticised of the 12 grounds, was put at 669.5 million reals.
"For me, this is the most beautiful stadium along with Natal," Ricardo Trade, executive director of the local organising committee, told the government`s official World Cup website.
City officials said there was still work to do after long queues formed at concession stands, adding that new partners were needed to run bars and restaurants at the ground.
"We were prepared for any kind of uncertainty but not to sell," said Miguel Capobiango, the local official in charge of preparations. "We need another operator to give us that support."
Many believe the stadium in Manaus is the leading contender to be an unused white elephant once the World Cup ends on July 13.
The city does not have a team in Brazil`s top three divisions and the average attendance of Nacional is 1,963, according to the sports consultancy firm Pluri Consultoria.
Manaus, a four-hour flight from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, has also come under scrutiny by some of the teams that will play there.
Italy take on England in Manaus on June 14 while Portugal face the United States eight days later. Cameroon also meet Croatia there and Honduras face Switzerland.
Before the draw was made for the group stages, England manager Roy Hodgson said he wanted to avoid Manaus because it was hot and humid and far away.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld also said it was "almost irresponsible" to stage matches in the city.