Sports of The Times: In the Brazilian Rain Forest, ‘a White Elephant, a Big One’

Construction was a dank nightmare. Three workers died. Foundations were poured, and repoured. Steel joints buckled in the humidity. Project managers discovered that “an unwelcome tributary of the French River” ran under the site. From December to March, Manaus receives about 45 inches of rain, so there was the Noah problem, too.

No roads run to Manaus other than dangerous dirt tracks impassable in wet weather. As the project manager said at the time, “this was a huge, huge, huge challenge.”

Those challenges later turned to red ink. The local soccer teams here are the equivalent of the Rookie League Kingsport Mets and draw 1,000 fans on the best nights. They could not afford the rent. A few big league teams, those from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, sometimes played here, but only if the state containing Manaus provided a subsidy of one sort or another. It is a four-hour flight from Rio to this capital of the Amazon.

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