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World Cup 2014 travel report

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This “Foreign Eye” blog about Brasil aids foreigners in travel during the World Cup 2014 and those moving here to for longer, to start a new life.  Since 2008 our mission is to provide good information based on in-depth discovery through our travels, experiences and stories from the foreigners living and building lives in Brasil.  Now a successful television series on Globo.

OLHAR ESTRANGEIRO

12 Stadiums

   of the

 FIFA World Cup 2014

 

Mark Lassise has a unique perspective into the stadium construction, infrastructure and culture of every 2014 world cup city.  The independent production  of “Olhar Estrangeiro” is seen on Globo’s sportv “Tá na Area” every thursday.  Mark and his Brasilian production team have traveled to the 12 host cities, some various times over the past 18 months .  This experience has given AIB a unique perspective into the stadium construction, infrastructure and culture of every 2014 World Cup city.

1

Maracanã

Estadio Do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Estadio Do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Let’s begin with the most historic stadium in all of South America … 

This storied stadium has seen crowds in excess of 200,000 screaming fans during the World Cup finals of 1950. It has had a couple re-constructions since then.  The most recent being the 2011-2013 reconstruct to meet the standards of FIFA and the right to host the finals of the 2014 World Cup.  Though, I have mixed feelings about the reconstruction because it lost some of its magic of the past by reducing the size 20,000 plus capacity, eliminating section “GERAL” and the addition of numbered seats.

On the other hand, the championship stadium for the World Cup Finals of 2014 is in great shape, complete with first world upgrades including; 4 big screen stadium televisions, a new club level, metro bridge, and easy access entrances.  All the games I have experienced there in the new Maracana have been safe, fun, and in order without violence.  The stadium features english markings on all signage along with the use of symbols which translate in all languages.
The atmosphere in the new  Maracanã is as electric as before the reconstruction.  The Rio club teams gather some of the most passionate fans in the world.  These games are always full of music, chants and songs all game long!
The international contests of course have a different vibe with different fans but none the less a great stadium for futebol!  Maracanã is one of the few World Cup stadiums that have an abundance of volunteers that speak english and other languages at all enterances and corridors during all FIFA games. The best part is that this is the only World Cup stadium fans can arrive in front with a short walk to the gates.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip) !
My tip for  Maracanã is to take the metro with confidence from the South Zone. It is a consistant 20 minute ride from General Osorio metro station. One thing to note about the beaches: The Gringo price exists in Rio de Janeiro, is a good policy and part of the Brasilian culture to always negotiate! 

2

Mineirão

mineirao

Mineirão in Belo Horizonte is a classic stadium and one of the “Big 3” of Brasil!  It went through a re-construction like that of Maracanã to prepare for the Confederations Cup 0f 2013.  Mineirão expanded their “Museu de Futebol”, a very interesting step in to the past of Minas Gerais and Nation futebol history.  The stadium is awesome; big, beautiful and well lit. The lower level seats are close to field level adding to the great experience.  Again the passion of clube futebol in Minas Gerais is as high a that of Rio de Janeiro. So, the club games are at a fever pitch. Though, BH will host a semi-finals match-up which should highen the energy of the International croud in attendance. The Brasil National team has a chance and is expected to land here for this game in this round. Guaranteed to give Mineirão yet another historic game to hang onto its Museum walls.
Like Maracana this stadium has an abundance of multi-lingual volunteers at enterances and roaming its corridors during FIFA events.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip) !
My tip for Mineirão is to give yourself 2 hours to get to the stadium.  There is a plan for a metro but there is no metro. The traffic is terrible on game days. The buses and taxes during FIFA games cannot arive in front of the stadium.  Expect up to a 2 km walk for most people going to see a game at Mineirao.  Keep in mind this holds true for most of the World Cup stadiums of 2014.

3

São Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo “Itaquerão” will host the opening game between Brasil v Croatia.  The historic stadium has been regulated to be part of the museum tour.  The new modern structure is still under construction when we past through Sao Paulo 3 months ago.  We were not granted a tour due to the heavy construction under way at that time.  This stadium will build a new history starting with the World Cup 2014 hosting 6 games including the round of 16 and the semi-finals.  Strategically located at the end of the RED line “Corintians” on the SP metro system.  It takes about 110 minutes from the Morumbi neighborhood.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  My tip for Sao Paulo is to get out and see the city.  It is huge and like new york you can cruise around everywhere by metro.  This also makes travel planning easier because of set times.

4

Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova is a new facility built on the site of the old stadium.  It is complete and has been in operation since the Confederation Cup of 2013. Home to one of the biggest rivalries in clube futebol of Brasil “Vitoria v Bahia”.  The stadium is comfortable and on top of the action with a open face enterance that looks out over the lake.  Is not the easiest stdium to get to due to the high density of traffic in Salvador.  The city is still waiting for the metro that was promised and funded 14 years ago and would have a stop at the stadium. This is a cool laid back city with plenty of foreigners.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  The tip for Salvador is to relax and be patience.  GAMEDAY: Leave plenty of time on game day to arrive at the stadium.

5

Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao is a giant structure built in the center of a run down area that is being revitalized far from where tourists will be staying.  Unique thing you’ll see here are donkeys in the streets!  A specific activity any normal tourist will definitely miss is the opportunity to walk on water with my friend Gael from France. He has a water sport company called “Aquafly”. There are very few of these in the world and possibly his is the only in brasil.  The last time I was in Fortaleza I found this really cool Pirate Bar that offers a musical show only on Mondays…really fun time!

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)! Find a private driver to get around.  Fortaleza is full of water sports, get physical!

6

Brasilia

Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia

Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia

Estadio National is a new build on the same site as the old Stadium in operation since the Confederation Cup 2013.  A colosseum in likeness this giant stadium is a sustainable development project and the most expensive of all the stadiums costing a whopping 1.4 Billion reais.  Though, its function is alot more than to host football games.  It solar panel roof adds back up to the city grid when not in use and it also features a rooftop and ground level reservoir that capture rain water for the use in its plumbing system. Brasilia is the only planned city in Brasil and very well spaced out and segregated into sections in the north and south wings. Communication in Brasilia is strong, I always use my english here with little to no trouble.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  Relax! All tourist visiting for the World Cup will probably find Estadio National the easiest to get to because it is located next to the hotel section. Impossible to miss and can be seen from all directions. One can arrive at the front gates after a 15 minute walk from any hotel.

7

Recife

Arena Pernambuco, Recife

Arena Pernambuco, Recife

Arena Pernambuco is the furtherst away from anything you can get! I have been there twice and both times missed the beginning of the game! Everyone will have problems arriving there if they do not read this or have a friend that lives there.  Prepare Gringos! This is a 2:30 hour trek to your seats and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the metro stops!  Rodoviaria stop is the stop to get off to catch the buses that go to the stadium 2 stops before the map points out.  If you follow the map to the stadium stop at the end of the line you will find no buses for the stadium. The historic district of Recife is very cool on weekends; concerts in the park, bars and art gallery.  Check out PeRetro in the mall by the Praça Mark”0″. They have the coolest vintage shirts representing seemily every clube and national team worldwide!

Mark’s Big Dica(Tip!)! Arena Pernambuco is a big new stadium with plenty of comforts BUT it takes the minimum 2 hours to get there with a 1 km walk to enter the stadium. I would stay in the city and watch the games at a bar close to Praca Marco Zero!

8

Porto Alegre

Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre

Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre

Estádio Beira-Rio was still under construction when I arrived for my tour of the stadium.  I never got to see this one in action and at the time I was there in February, it had a swirl of controversy about preparedness.  There was a ton of work left to do and apparently now 3 months later things have worked out satisfactorily.  If Beira-Rio is anything like the new Gremio Stadium a couple kilometers down the road, things will rockin’ during the world cup 2014. The people in the south of Brasil are called “Gaúchos” and they have an extreme pride about their history and importance to Brasil.  They wave their state flag of Rio Grande do Sul higher than that of the country flag.                                                                                                                                                                  
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  Treat yourself to a Gaúcho churrasco, and use taxis for your travel around town.

9

Natal

Estadio das Dunas, Natal

Estadio das Dunas, Natal

Arena das Dunas is a gorgeous stadium, just not sure if its really needed in this military beach town.  There is no real city here that I experienced.  The attendant at the airport  INFO center told me “We now need a first world city to go around our new modern stadium”. The roads are a mess around the stadium with what seems to be dozen infrastructure projects going on at the same time, though, the city is very easy to navigate because it has one major road.  The experience at the stadium was awesome, the game I saw there was for big stakes and the fans for the “América Futebol Clube (RN)” danced and sang more than any I have witnessed during my 2 tours of all the stadiums in Brasil over the last 16 months.  It was a great vibe, I expect a great experience for the foreigners coming the Natal for the world cup!
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!   Go to the Dunas of Genipabu, take a jeep tour and enjoy the ride…One of the best experiences of my life!

10

Manaus

Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

Arena da Amazonia was a huge surprise for me!  Contrary to the reports and stories I was reading on the English news sites before I went that talked negatively about Manaus.  I found an amazing city ready to host the thousands of English support that will surely be here for the World Cup!  They are many Brasilians that say Manaus does not need a stadium.  However, I found a city that now has the capacity to welcome foreigners and hold huge events for years beyond the World Cup.  Not all is perfect here, they are missing the promised lite rail train system, that was supposed to be ready along with the stadium.  This is not surprising after learning firsthand all the mysterious metro stories from many of the host cities.  The games will be awesome here, the Americans and English will feel comfortable in Manaus. Though, the club passion here is somewhat subdued compared to the futebol spirit in the rest of the cities.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!   If you are going to Manaus do not miss the opportunity to take a boat ride up the Rio Negro river!  The Amazon is a life experience! Go to Ariau Amazon Towers, follow the path of Jacques Cousteau and disconnect from all that you know as reality.

11

Cuiabá

Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba

Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba

Arena Patanal is the stadium that was questioned the most by the opposition of the 12 stadium plan.  I landed there in May to what is a major construction zone; the airport to city roads to bridges and underpasses.  It took us 2 hours to navigate the way to the stadium with a dozen detours. We missed the first goal scored at the new stadium.  Though it has charm and a cool design, looking to me like a pontoon boat, there was a entire upper deck that needed seats; the lights were not operating in unison leaving the field semi-dark for 10 minutes at dusk; and the city itself is simply inside out with construction everywhere.  But the game was fun!  Cuiabá in my estimation has the worst roads to navigate because the construction is so intense. 11 of the 13 infrastructure projects are behind.  Detours are everywhere, hard to imagine when the FIFA traffic pattern rules are implemented.  The city itself is lacking and confusing. Good Luck!

 

Mark’s Big Dica!  If you are going to Cuiabá get out of the city and GOTO the PANTANAL(110kms from city) or CHAPADA DOS GUIMARAES(80kms away and visable from the city)!  Go and enjoy the natural paradises that this regoin is known by, recommended by all including the city info center.

12

Curitiba

Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

I need to start off with how impressed I was to the organization of this southern-bell of a city!   Top-notch, and you can take the bus!! The first host city I was encouraged by locals to take their world renowned public bus lines.  I felt like I was back in Montgomery County Maryland where I grew up outside of Washington DC. There was not a piece of trash in the street, chilly with winter around the corner, people hustling and bustling everywhere.  However, the stadium situation contradicts the standards of Curitiba.  The inside of Arena Baixada is awesome, appears to be on a higher quality of materials used in its construction and design, than that of all the other stadiums.  With two huge support trusses that hold the roof in place. Large enough for camera crews to roam, should be some great shots if the games happen. Owned by Clube Atlético Paranaense with private investment the construction is way behind with foundation and structural phases to the press wing still underway 2o days ago when I visited.  It will definitely come down to the wire here! But great city!!
Mark’s Big Dica!  Just relax and dress warm it will be the dead of winter with frost and very seldom snow dustings. Take the CITY BUS TOUR,  the vibe of Curitiba will make any European or American feel close to home.