How Do You Build a Stadium in The Rainforest?

Eight months before the first game of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil is on a feverish construction binge. The country is also planning for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, its biggest city. Development workers have never been busier, and Brazil’s economy has swelled in anticipation of all of the tourists.

To show off the geographic diversity and accommodate all of the World Cup’s games, the tournament’s organizers have looked beyond Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Brasilia. One of the most unique venues is in Manaus, Brazil, which, if you type it into Google Maps, you’ll notice is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. Manaus is a big city—population about 1.8 million—but it lacks a well-shined metropolis. Most of the tourist offerings are jungle lodges.

Efforts to build the Manaus stadium have run into the usual snags: cost overruns, construction delays, questions about what the town will do with a 42,000-seat stadium once the World Cup is over. But what makes the project so unusual is its geography. As one would expect, the rain in a rainforest is relentless (45 inches over the rainy season between December and March). The sun can be brutal at the equator. Harsh rays can literally melt the plastic of the seats. According to a report in the New York Times, the humidity is so intense, it can cause steel to buckle. Then there’s the question of how to get the building materials into the area, setting up a staging area for assembly and housing the workers putting it all together.

To Brazil, the costs are worth it. This is the country’s one shot to show off its diverse geography and culture, especially the attractive pockets outside of the shiny cities.

It’s important to be skeptical about building in such an ecologically rich area. History has shown that cities that invest heavily in infrastructure for global sporting events are usually left with big shrines of excess, often adjacent to people who need homes and food, not high-priced concert venues. That said, I do see the enchanting novelty of a stadium in a rainforest. Properly addressing the environmental impacts of sun, rain, and humidity could make it a mighty unique place to take in a match of soccer.

Changing Planet