The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


June 2, 2014

World Cup's most exotic city awaits tourist influx

— MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Death by giant snakes, malarial mosquitoes or drug-addled, knife-wielding thieves: If the barrage of blood-soaked headlines in the British tabloids is to be believed, that's what awaits soccer fans travelling to the most exotic of Brazil's World Cup host cities, the Amazonian metropolis of Manaus.

Despite Manaus' far-flung location in the heart of the world's biggest rainforest, making it reachable only by plane or boat, the ills most likely to affect the 52,000 or so foreigners expected for soccer's premier tournament are disappointingly mundane. Visitors to this city of 2 million are far more likely to spend hours locked in bumper-to-bumper gridlock than even cross paths with a python — let alone be strangled by one.

"People need to study geography," quipped Ketlen dos Santos Alves, a 20-year-old college student and Manaus native. "Yes, Manaus is in the Amazon, but it's also a huge city. How do foreigners actually believe there are snakes hanging from every tree and caimans hiding in the gutters?"

While the forest fauna is largely absent from the city itself, nature makes itself felt in the hothouse climate and the blooms of mold that envelop the low-slung concrete buildings. With humidity hovering around 80 percent year-round, even just sitting motionless, out of doors is a sweat-inducing activity.

To help acclimate its players, the England soccer squad is training in multiple layers of long-sleeved clothing as it prepares to face Italy on June 15 in the first of four World Cup matches being held in Manaus's new $229 million Arena Amazonas stadium.

"There are two seasons in Manaus — summer and hell," a local adage goes.

Clearly, the eight teams slated to play in the city, the U.S., England, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Cameroon, Portugal and Honduras, have their work cut out for them in dealing with the heat and humidity.

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